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Lords Chamber

Volume 570: debated on Thursday 21 March 1996

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House Of Lords

Thursday, 21st March 1996.

The House met at three of the clock ( Prayers having been read earlier at the Judicial Sitting by The Lord Bishop of Sheffield.): The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Royal Assent

My Lords, I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that the Queen has signified her Royal Assent to the following Acts:

Consolidated Fund Act 1996,

Health Service Commissioners (Amendment) Act 1996.

European Defence Policy


Whether they agree with the assertion of the report to the Intergovernmental Conference of the Political Committee of the Western European Union adopted on 23rd February 1996 that defence must remain with the Western European Union and not be handed over to the European Union.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage
(Lord Inglewood)

My Lords, the Government believe that an autonomous Western European Union provides the best framework for the further development of European defence co-operation. The European Union is not equipped to fulfil that role itself.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend the Minister for that Answer which is highly satisfactory. However, will he perhaps take on board that that is a view shared by other parties because, in the delegations that I lead to the Western European Union, all the parties fully support it? Those countries taking part in the IGC which may try to delay matters in the hope that there will be a change of government after the next election ought not to think that there will be a change on that particular issue of Western European Union.

My Lords, it is most satisfactory that my noble friend finds my reply satisfactory. Of course, he is quite right.

My Lords, we on these Benches find the Minister's reply a little less satisfactory. Is the noble Lord aware that the view of the committee of the Western European Union seems to us to be essentially a short-term view? In the long-term, the best way of maintaining NATO in the post-Cold War world, with the American commitment to NATO, is through the Western European Union so building on an effective European Union defence and foreign policy arrangement.

My Lords, our position in respect of the relationship between the Western European Union and the European Union is one which we believe is both clear and in the national interest.

My Lords, will the Minister accept that the noble Lord, Lord Finsberg, is right in saying that, so far as concerns the Labour Party, we support the view that the Western European Union as a second pillar of NATO—if I may put it that way—is the proper mechanism for Western European defence? Further, will the Minister agree that, in terms of defence procurement, there may well be matters which can be raised within the European Union but that, ultimately, as regards defence of the United Kingdom, the Western European Union as a pillar of NATO is a policy which, as the noble Lord, Lord Finsberg, pointed out, is supported by our party?

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Williams, for explaining his party's position in that respect. As I have already explained, we believe that the Western European Union is an important element of NATO and that NATO is a mainstay of our defence.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that there is on this issue—

My Lords, with the greatest respect, I believe that it is the turn of this side of the House.

My Lords, is it not correct to say that if the Western European Union was merged in any way with the European Union to form such a defence pillar, there would be some problems with Russia which would then regard the European Union as being a defence organisation?

My Lords, I must begin my reply to my noble friend by emphasising that it is no part of the Government's policy that the WEU should be merged with the European Union. Of course, the point made by my noble friend is correct; indeed, we are most concerned about the suggestion that such a merger might take place.

My Lords, following on from the question posed by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Elvel, does the Minister agree that, in all this very interesting controversy about Western European and then European Union, it is the Atlantic alliance that counts, that the defence of Europe is indivisible from that of North America and that it is membership of NATO and of the Atlantic alliance which really should lie at the heart of the Government's policy?

My Lords, in response to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, all I can say is that, so far as concerns the Government, NATO does lie in that position.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that I was over-eager to express my support for the Question and, indeed, for his acceptance of it? I believe that one of the things which is most widely known throughout the parties and probably throughout the country is the fact that, generally speaking, both that Question and the Answer have our full support.

My Lords, it is indeed an historic event, both in terms of this afternoon's proceedings and in terms of the more recent history of this House, to find the noble Lord, Lord Jenkins of Putney, and the Government at one on such matters.

My Lords, can the Minister tell the House whether there is any thought on the part of the Government, which would be possible under the Brussels treaty, to create a head of state and a formula at governmental level to improve the level of communication which exists at present and which, thus far—and I can say this from some experience as an elected member of the WEU Assembly—has been far from satisfactory?

My Lords, the point to which the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, alludes is one of which the Government are aware. However, it seems a little early at this stage to form definite views about such matters.

My Lords, does the Minister accept that there must be some sympathy with the supplementary question put by the noble Lord, Lord Thomson of Monifieth? If in fact there were a federal Europe, the case for a European defence policy would be logical and irresistible. Those of us who think that the idea of a federal Europe is an absurdity to be avoided have no problem in that respect. Is the Minister actually saying that the Government also dismiss the idea of a federal Europe out of hand?

My Lords, using the word "federal" in its English sense, the concept of a federal Europe—which is a centralised, monolithic Europe—is one which the Government entirely reject.

My Lords, will the Minister give the House an assurance that at the forthcoming Intergovernmental Conference Her Majesty's Government will resist any endeavours to amend Article J8 paragraph 2 of the treaty which gives the power to determine policy to the European Council and not—and I emphasise the word "not"—to the Commission?

My Lords, do I understand that the Minister has now admitted that there are two interpretations of the word "federalism" and that the English version is quite different from the other? Would it not be a good idea if the Government agreed with the other members of Europe as to what the word really means?

My Lords, so far as concerns the English language, surely the British themselves can determine the meaning of the word.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that I very much welcome his reply to the original Question tabled by his noble friend? However, I welcome even more the question, and its direction, posed by my noble friend Lord Williams of Elvel from the Labour Front Bench. However, can the Minister give us the absolute assurance that in no circumstances whatever will the Government agree to qualified majority voting on defence matters in Pillar 3—as I think it is—of the European Union?

My Lords, the Government do not have the slightest intention of allowing defence matters to intrude into Pillar 3 of the European Union. Even if it were to do so—which we are opposed to and, indeed, would resist in any IGC—it would be entirely inappropriate for such decisions to be taken by qualified majority voting.

Tobacco Advertising And Promotion

3.9 p.m.

What is their assessment of the working of the voluntary agreement between the Department of Health and the tobacco companies about tobacco advertising and promotion.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health
(Baroness Cumberlege)

My Lords, the annual reports produced by the committee which monitors the voluntary agreements (COMATAS) show that the tobacco companies have a good record of compliance with those agreements.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. However, does the noble Baroness agree that there is disturbing evidence that the number of young people who smoke, especially teenagers between the ages of 11 and 15, is increasing; that the latest figures show that 21 per cent. of all 11 to 15 year-olds smoke; and that there is a loophole in the voluntary agreement in that there is still a great deal of sports sponsorship by tobacco companies, as well as sponsorship of individual sporting entrants? Is not that loophole a contributory factor to encouraging young people to take up smoking?

My Lords, there is a marginal increase in young people smoking, but it is mostly among young girls and not young boys.

The sports sponsorship agreement is a new agreement. The noble Lord will be aware that it was introduced at the end of January this year. It includes no sponsorship of activities in which the majority of participants are under 18, or activities which are designed to appeal in particular to audiences under 18; no advertisements for sponsored events are to be posted within 200 metres of the front entrance of schools; and the contents of advertisements for such sponsored events are to follow the spirit of the cigarette code.

We have taken action. The agreement only came into existence in January. Therefore it is unlikely to have had much effect yet.

My Lords, will my noble friend consider requesting a review yet again of the provision which allows smoking in all parts of the Library in your Lordships' House? I appreciate that the matter has been considered many times. I refer to the effects of passive smoking. Will the Minister confirm that smoking positively or passively is very harmful to health?

My Lords, I should hate to dictate whether or not your Lordships should smoke. Tobacco is a legal substance. I am aware that these matters are dealt with by the appropriate committee of your Lordships' House.

As regards the dangers of smoking, my noble friend is right. It is irrefutable that smoking damages your health. That is why we have the most comprehensive strategy for anti-smoking in the world.

My Lords, has the Minister discussed the Question with her noble friend Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish? Does she recall that in replying recently to the noble Earl, Lord Russell, he stressed that smoking during pregnancy was an important cause for low birth weight babies. The Minister raised the issue of an increase in smoking among young girls and women. As the voluntary agreement is obviously not working as regards discouraging smoking in an at-risk group, will the Government think again on the issue?

My Lords, we have a campaign running at present. The sum of £14 million was invested in this area. We have only just launched the campaign. We shall see what impact it has. The noble Baroness is right. Smoking in pregnancy has an effect on the birth of young babies. Perhaps that is not an issue of enormous importance to your Lordships' House.

My Lords, I declare an interest. Perhaps I may ask the Minister whether the Government will not bother about this issue. After all, we do not present any danger to babies. The suggestions of my noble friend Lady Gardner of Parkes on this issue are surely a little rough.

My Lords, I in no way wish to intrude on the habits of your Lordships in this House. However, it is right that every member of the British public should have the right information about the dangers of smoking. To put out the information, and especially to target it at young people, is part of the Government's strategy.

My Lords, following the Minister's reply to my noble friend Lord Dubs on the sports issue, why do not the Government follow the very good example of the Australians, a country where sport is very important? Is the Minister aware that after the Tobacco Advertising Act 1992 in that country, the Government supported health promotion foundations in order that the money previously donated to sport through tobacco advertising came from other sources.

My Lords, we have this agreement on sports sponsorship with the tobacco industry. A case is often put—I do not believe that it is made—that advertising should be banned generally. However, when we consider the progress of this country compared with other European countries it is interesting to see that we have made greater progress than any other European country except the Netherlands which also does not have an advertising ban.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that one of the great disincentives to smoking is herbal tobacco which is horrible?

My Lords, I hope that the Government, and indeed Members of your Lordships' House, are not in danger of becoming hypocritical on this issue. I am sure that the noble Baroness is aware that the social problems arising from drink and excess drink are extremely serious. They involve child battering; wife battering; the killing on the roads of 500 people every year, and the injuring of 10,000; stabbing outside public houses and all kinds of social evils. Yet we have now agreed, apparently with government approval, to spirits being advertised on television whereas previously they were banned. Let us have some equality in the matter.

My Lords, I am not sure that the noble Lord is correct in his last statement. I shall check it. The Government in no way want a nanny state. We shall not tell people what to do or how to live their lives. That is not part of the Government's role. We ensure that people have the information.

We have very stringent laws on drink driving. We enforce those laws. The noble Lord will be aware of the enormous progress that we have made in that field.

My Lords, £14 million has been spent on campaigns to dissuade young people from smoking and those campaigns have had no effect. That indicates that it is rather a waste of money. Other campaigns have also been ineffective in that age group. Would it not be far better—it would cost no money—for the Government to ban sports sponsorship, as has been suggested, and to forbid other forms of tobacco advertising?

My Lords, perhaps I should correct the noble Lord. The £14 million is for a comprehensive campaign for all sections of the population which will last over three years. Of that £14 million, £3 million has been set aside in particular for young people. That contract has only just been let. The work has not yet started. We shall not see the results for a while.

We are making progress in this field. Twenty years ago, nearly half the population smoked; today the figure is just over a quarter. We are making progress. It would be wrong for your Lordships to feel that we are not and that an advertising or sponsorship ban is the answer. We know from countries which have those bans that they are not effective. We work with the tobacco industry with very stringent agreements which it enforces and which we know to be successful.

Training For Work: Funding For Ex-Offenders

3.18 p.m.

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In so doing, I declare an interest as chairman of the Apex Trust which is concerned with the training of offenders.

The Question was as follows:

Why Training and Enterprise Councils do not receive the highest category of weighted funding for the training of ex-offenders within the Training for Work programme, in view of the importance of ex-offenders obtaining employment and so reducing the rate of recidivism.

My Lords, many ex-offenders are able to join training for work immediately on their release from custody. This is because we have relaxed the eligibility requirements for the programme to help them start training quickly.

Training and Enterprise Councils receive higher weighted payments for trainees who are very long-term unemployed, have disabilities, or who have literacy, numeracy and English language training needs. Where ex-offenders are in those categories, they will attract the higher payments.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. Does he realise that getting ex-offenders into jobs is not only humane but very sensible, and is the best way to cut down on recidivism. If one can reduce recidivism, one will have tackled many of the worst problems in the prison system. Will the Minister not consider the matter again so that ex-offenders other than those in the categories to which he referred can gain the benefit of the enhanced training grant?

My Lords, obviously we have to use the available resources as we can. We believe that we have roughly the right balance. That is why we give all ex-prisoners basic entitlement to training for work the minute they leave prison without having to wait six months as with other unemployed people.

As regards the other groups, we believe that they are a higher priority and one on which we should target the available resources. Where ex-offenders fall into those groups, they can benefit from the higher payments.

My Lords, I declare an interest as President of NIACRO. Does the Minister realise that Northern Ireland is affected as well as England? Is he aware that there will be fewer voluntarily managed training places, both for ex-offenders and for those at risk of offending, as a result of the cuts imposed by the Government on the ACE programme?

My Lords, obviously the noble Lord would not expect me to answer in detail on the Northern Ireland position in relation to programmes provided by that department. Although in Great Britain as a whole we had to make cuts to training for work, it was in the light of a particularly difficult public expenditure round. We were still able to maintain the same number of opportunities as before. We believe that at a difficult time we must allocate resources in a sensible way. That is why I emphasised the priorities that I mentioned in my original Answer.

My Lords, it seems to me that my noble friend Lady Seear made an entirely socially desirable proposition. Will the Minister indicate what extra expenditure there would be in following her proposal?

My Lords, not without notice. As I said earlier, public expenditure remains difficult and we have to cut our cloth according to whatever resources are available. We allocated the extra resources to the groups that we thought had a higher priority than ex-offenders. However, we see a case for ex-offenders and that is why they have immediate entitlement to training for work the moment they come out of prison, without having to wait six months, as other unemployed people do.

My Lords, the Home Secretary will bring forward proposals which will inevitably increase the prison population, as is widely recognised. Will the Minister give assurances that the funding of training programmes for ex-offenders will be increased proportionately to the increase in spending on the prison system?

My Lords, the noble Lord will accept that that is another Question. However, I can make it quite clear that we have no intention of changing the basic eligibility for training for work. Ex-offenders will be entitled to training for work when they come out of prison.

My Lords, will the Minister confirm some figures on this? Am I right that the training organisations hoping to run pilot courses, including NIACRO, have put in bids to the TECs which last week submitted proposals to the department'? Bids were made for 19,000 training places, of which 8,500 will be funded. Is that the scope of the problem, that only about 40 per cent. of the applications will receive government funding? If so, is that not too extreme a cut?

My Lords, I cannot confirm the noble Lord's figures without notice but I should be more than happy to write to him. As I said at the beginning, we must cut our cloth according the resources available to us. We give basic eligibility to those who come out of prison for training for work, without their having to wait six months. As regards the extra resources available for certain groups, we believe that it is right to target those I mentioned in my original Answer.

My Lords, will the Minister tell the House when ex-offenders on training for work programmes last had their allowances up-rated for inflation?

My Lords, the Minister said that it is important that we use our money sensibly. Will he agree that to keep an ordinary grade offender in prison costs at least £400 a week? To keep a high category offender in prison costs over £1,000 a week. If we can save ex-offenders from going back to prison, is that not economical?

My Lords, it obviously costs a great deal to keep offenders in prison. Training is provided to those offenders while they are in prison and we hope that it is of benefit to them. That is why so much is spent on them. However, as I made clear earlier, we have to cut our cloth according to the resources available. I do not believe that merely increasing money for one particular group would necessarily prevent all the recidivism that the noble Baroness fears. It is right that we should do what we can, and that is why we target the resources on ex-offenders in the way I described. However, there are other groups: the disabled, those with literacy and numeracy problems and those with English language training needs. It is right that they should receive higher priority than ex-offenders.

Cheltenham Festival: Risks To Racehorses

3.23 p.m.

Whether they consider that the number of horses destroyed at the recent Cheltenham Festival was unacceptably high and, if so, whether they will take steps with the racing authorities to reduce the risks.

My Lords, it is a matter of sadness that the recent Cheltenham Festival was marred by the deaths of those horses. However, the safety of horses at individual racecourses is a matter for the responsible racing authorities.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. However, will she agree that there is considerable public anxiety about the fact that 10 horses were destroyed at a three-day race meeting held in the name of sport? Is it not now time for the Government to set up the appropriate form of joint consultation with the racing authorities so that the continuing national scandal of equine slaughter may be seriously examined?

My Lords, it was not a three-day but a four-day event. It is a wholly exceptional occasion when 10 horses die in one event. It is fair to say that it is not just the public who are distressed by the fact. The owners, trainers and riders of the horses are too, as well as the Jockey Club, the officials of the course and everyone else connected with racing. Bernard Donigan of the RSPCA said:

"Together with the Jockey Club, we have made great advances. We have left nothing to chance. Cheltenham race-course has done everything possible and you cannot criticise them. Everyone there did all they could".
It is a matter for them and it would be quite wrong for the Government to intervene in the process in a knee-jerk reaction.

My Lords, will my noble friend agree that horse-racing, especially jump racing, is a high risk sport both for horse and rider, but it employs thousands of people and gives pleasure to millions? It is inevitable that accidents will happen and it is unfortunate that so many should occur at one meeting. Will the Minister further agree that when a horse fractures its leg or otherwise damages itself so that it is no longer able to walk, the most humane thing to do is to have it destroyed as quickly as possible?

My Lords, it is a sad occasion, particularly when as many as 10 horses are involved, but it is a wholly exceptional occurrence. It is also true that almost no sport is without risk. There is always risk and many horses ridden not for sport but for pleasure die in the field as a result of broken legs or, even worse, broken necks.

The Jockey Club takes its work seriously and the officials of the course take their work seriously. It is our view that everyone concerned is highly responsible and they do all they can to minimise such occurrences. I again quote Bernard Donigan who said:
"To lose one horse, never mind 10, is a source of great concern to us. But in racing there will never be a situation where there will be no casualties".

My Lords, is the Minister aware that I happened to be in Cheltenham last week and saw this unprecedented number of fatalities? Nearly half of them were on the flat, between jumps, so it is bewildering. I have sympathy for those who are worried. Will the Minister agree that the probable explanation is the unusual combination of the exceptional speed and competitiveness of this great festival, together with perhaps a lack of preparation of some horses whose training was hindered in the bad winter?

In order that we may know the facts, will the Minister press for general publication of the report of the inquiry which the racing authorities set up, I may say with commendable speed? Although in top jump racing it is inevitable that there will be great danger for jockeys as well as horses, no one who loves racing would like to see a repetition of fatalities on that scale.

My Lords, as the noble Lord said, an inquiry has been set up by the Jockey Club and the officials of the racecourse. We understand that anyone will be free to give evidence to it, including welfare organisations. The inquiry will report to the board of Cheltenham Racecourse. I simply do not know the answer, so I cannot say whether the report will be made public, but I will take the point away with me. It is in everybody's interest that the inquiry is thorough, and we have every reason to believe that it will be. As to speculation as to what happened, it would be inappropriate to guess. My understanding is that the combination of weather both last summer and during this winter may have been a contributory factor. It is also true that it was a very fast course during those four days. If I may be forgiven the pun, I am told that there was a very serious tailwind, so they were even faster than normal.

My Lords, it is important that the Question put by the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhill, is addressed. People do not like seeing horses die. No one likes seeing any animal die. I declare a special interest: for the past seven years I have been head of a world equestrian sporting body, the Three Day Event. Regretfully, in that discipline we have had several fatalities, and I have been involved in addressing them.

Will the Minister agree that the risk in equestrian sports such as racing is very, very considerable? Horses love galloping and jumping. If they did not like it, they would not do it. Can the Minister tell the House how long the inquiry that the Cheltenham authorities have set up will take? It is a very laudable thing to do. When will we have the result?

My Lords, the issue is serious. It is being addressed. There is an inquiry, and the inquiry will take as long as it needs to take in order to come forward with a conclusion. That conclusion will be reported to the board, which has promised it will take action if that is appropriate.


3.32 p.m.

My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m., my noble friend the Leader of the House will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is to be made in another place on the Northern Ireland elective process.

Broadcasting The Judicial Business Of The House: Select Committee Report

rose to move, That the report of the Select Committee on Broadcasting the Judicial Business of the House be agreed to [HL Paper 42].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the House may be aware that, at present, a general prohibition exists on broadcasting the judicial proceedings of the House, subject to the exception set out in this report. Under that exception, judgments have been broadcast on three occasions in the past. Each time agreement to allow the broadcast was sought both from the Broadcasting Committee and the Law Lords. The present position is cumbersome. At the request of the Law Lords, the Broadcasting Committee now seeks to establish a more satisfactory arrangement.

The report recommends that the general prohibition on the broadcast of judicial proceedings be upheld, but that the Law Lords be given authority to relax the rule on a case by case basis where they think it appropriate to do so.

By retaining the general prohibition, the committee envisages that the adoption of the report will not lead to the regular broadcasting of judicial proceedings. Rather, the effect of the report will be to put in place a proper procedure for giving permission to broadcast judicial proceedings on an occasional basis.

The report has been made and agreed by the Broadcasting Committee at the request of the Law Lords themselves. The Law Lords have assured the committee that they support the recommendations contained in the report. I beg to move.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Tribunals Of Inquiry (Evidence) Act 1921

My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved to resolve, That it is expedient that a tribunal be established for inquiring into a definite matter of urgent public importance, that is to say, the incident at Dunblane Primary School on Wednesday, 13th March 1996, which resulted in the deaths of 18 people.—(The Earl of Lindsay.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Northern Ireland: Elective Process

3.34 p.m.

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement on the arrangement leading to all-party negotiations in Northern Ireland now being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister. The Statement is as follows:

"In my Statement to the House of 28th February, I announced that all-party negotiations would commence on 10th June. In a communiqué issued on the same day, the British and Irish Governments also agreed on intensive multilateral consultations with the Northern Ireland parties. The purpose of these was to help the British Government draw up proposals for a broadly acceptable elective process, including the possibility of a referendum, and to try to reach agreement on the format and agenda of all-party negotiations.

"In the course of these consultations the Government have met all the major parties and most minor parties in Northern Ireland on several occasions. Sinn Fein has of course excluded itself. There have been several meetings between the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and the Tanarste, Mr. Spring, including a review of the outcome of the consultations. The Irish Government have also had a number of meetings with the Northern Ireland parties.

"In some areas, we have seen encouraging signs of convergence between the parties' views. In others, sharp differences have remained. The form of elections has been one of the main areas of disagreement between the parties.

"Three main systems have been proposed: first, an election in 18 constituencies, each electing five members by single transferable vote; secondly, an election on a party list system across one single Northern Ireland constituency; thirdly, a single constituency election across Northern Ireland with votes for parties but not for named candidates. None of these systems has secured the clear support of major parties representing each of the main communities. Some parties have even threatened not to participate in the process and thus abort the possibility of all-party negotiations should one of the other systems be chosen.

"I made clear in my Statement on 28th February that, if no agreement proved possible, the Government would come forward with proposals based on a judgment of what is most likely to be broadly acceptable to the parties and to the people of Northern Ireland. Whatever the merits of each of the three main systems, it is clear that none on its own meets this criterion of broad acceptability.

"We have therefore considered how to proceed. We have decided to propose a new system including the most attractive elements of other proposals. We will therefore introduce legislation immediately after the Easter Recess providing for an election on 30th May using a list system rather than individual candidates, organised in 18 constituencies but not by single transferable vote, and supplemented by Northern Ireland-wide party preference.

"Briefly, electors will have to register just one vote which they will cast for the party of their choice. Five seats in each of the 18 constituencies will be allocated from party constituency lists of candidates, published in advance, in proportion to each party's share of the vote. In addition, the votes in all the constituencies will be aggregated and the 10 most successful parties across the whole of Northern Ireland will secure two elected representatives each from party lists published in advance.

"I believe this is a fair and balanced system that will produce a representative outcome. The Province-wide element should help achieve the widely shared objective of making the negotiating process as inclusive as possible through representation of the smaller parties.

"These elections will create a pool of 110 elected representatives. The successful parties will be invited by the Secretary of State to select from among their representatives negotiating teams for the negotiations to begin on 10th June. The transition from the elections to the negotiations will be automatic and immediate.

"Our aim is to see inclusive negotiations. Sinn Fein have, however, currently excluded themselves from negotiations by the ending of the IRA ceasefire. That is their choice. But they can make themselves eligible to participate through the unequivocal restoration of the ceasefire. That, too, is their choice.

"These negotiations need to take place in an atmosphere of confidence. As I told the House on 28th February, all parties will need to make clear at the beginning of negotiations their total and absolute commitment to the principles of democracy and non-violence set out the Mitchell report and to address, also at the beginning of negotiations, Senator Mitchell's proposals on decommissioning. There can be no backing away from this. Equally there must be confidence that, as the negotiations proceed, they will be comprehensive and address all legitimate issues.

"As well as furnishing negotiating teams, the elected representatives will be members of an elected forum to meet in Belfast on a regular basis when negotiations are not in session. The purpose of discussion in this forum will be to promote dialogue and mutual understanding within Northern Ireland.

"The forum will not engage in the negotiations, which will be free-standing, but could interact with and inform the process at the request of the participants in negotiations. For example, the negotiators might agree to commission discussions, studies or reports from the forum. The legislation will also provide for the forum to be able to conduct hearings at which public submissions by relevant bodies or individuals can be made.

"The forum's life will be time limited to 12 months, renewable for up to a maximum of a further 12 months. It will not continue in existence if negotiations are no longer in process. In its procedures, it will be required to proceed by broad consensus.

"We have also looked at proposals for referenda. We agree that the people of Northern Ireland must have full ownership of the negotiation process and its outcome. The electoral legislation will give the Government powers to hold referenda in Northern Ireland. This will enable us to meet our undertaking to put the outcome of negotiations to the people of Northern Ireland before submitting it to Parliament.

"It has also been argued that a referendum could be valuable, for example, on the use of violence for political ends. Our judgement at present is that the case for such a referendum has not yet been conclusively made. But we have not ruled out the option of holding a referendum with an appropriate question or questions on the same day as the elections.

"There is one other important area which needs to be settled before negotiations can begin, namely, the ground rules for these negotiations. At the end of last week, a consultation paper was issued to the parties. This paper sets out what an acceptable approach might be, drawing on the experience of the 1991–92 talks round and preliminary consultations with the parties. Further consultations with the parties will continue to ensure that the maximum common ground can be identified.

"I have outlined today what I believe to be a viable and reasonable way forward. Everyone in this process has had to make compromises, some of them difficult ones. Everyone has needed to exercise patience. I am grateful for that. But the basis of our approach has remained unchanged, namely, the principles of democracy and non-violence set out in the Downing Street Declaration and the need for an approach which can build confidence and lead to an agreement capable of winning the allegiance of both main communities.

"I therefore urge the Northern Ireland parties to look carefully at the announcements I have made today and the short paper giving more detail which we are publishing in parallel. No party has got all it wanted. Equally, I see no issue of principle here which could reasonably cause any party to walk away from the democratic process I have set out. I do not believe the people of Northern Ireland would understand if any party did.

"Let us also not forget that the threat of terrorism continues to hang over this process. That is why the Mitchell principles of democracy and non-violence, and parallel decommissioning, remain so important.

"The IRA used the lack of a fixed date for all-party negotiations as an excuse to break its ceasefire. There was never any justification for its actions. Now its excuses are running out. What I have set out today represents a clear and direct route to all-party negotiations. The prospects for a just and lasting settlement are better than they have been for a generation if all parties take advantage of the opportunities now before us.

"But let me make clear yet again that, while we want to see all parties round the table, the process will go on with or without Sinn Fein. If it excludes itself from taking part in democratic negotiations, it will not be able to exercise a veto against others doing so.

"Once again the people of Northern Ireland are watching the latest steps along the road to negotiations with bated breath. Their hopes for peace could not be clearer or more overwhelming. We need to move beyond procedures to the substance of negotiations as soon as we can. The chance is there: no one who stands unreasonably in the way of a settlement will be readily forgiven.

"I therefore commend to the House the approach I have set out, and hope that the House will today send a clear signal of support for this democratic process. That would be the best answer to the terrorists who continue to threaten it."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

3.47 p.m.

My Lords, I thank the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement made in another place. This is a very delicate and dangerous time in the history of Northern Ireland and we who do not live there but have great affection and regard for those who do need to bear that constantly in mind. I know that the noble Viscount the Leader of the House will accept that that is our approach and will remain our constant concern. We wish the Prime Minister and the Secretary of State to succeed. There is no ambiguity about that.

But I am troubled that some of the present proposals are a shade opaque. They seem not to have been fully worked out. That may be put right in the short paper which the Leader of the House indicated is to be published in parallel. I have not seen that paper and it would be of assistance, I believe, if we could know when it is to be published and when it will be available.

We believe that elections and electoral mechanisms are only a present means to a future purpose. Is the noble Viscount the Leader of the House able to assure us that the elective process he has set out today is going to lead to all-party negotiations and nothing will be allowed to delay or derail those negotiations? What work is presently being done with the Irish Government and the political parties on the ground in respect of the rules for the negotiations? How is the forum to work? It is very large in number, bearing in mind the population of Northern Ireland. Who is to determine its rules of procedure? Is it to have a chairman? If it steps outside its apparent mandate, who is to control it?

Those are not finicky questions of detail. I foresee with regret that they are likely to be stumbling areas if they are not precisely defined as soon as possible. Will the forum have any power to direct or influence the course of negotiations, or will the negotiating body simply be able to direct the forum to carry out investigations? What are the ground rules to be?

As I understand the Statement, the ground rules are to be drawn on the basis of the Mitchell Report. That means parallel decommissioning. That in turn means the beginning of all-party negotiations without a single weapon being handed over. Is that acceptable, on the Government's present best judgment, to unionist opinion in Northern Ireland? Some of these are harsh questions; they are not intended to be partisan. But there are dangers ahead which we need to avoid if we can. Are the negotiations to be based on the three-stranded process, which has been the common concern of Her Majesty's Government and the Government of the Irish Republic?

I have one or two further questions of detail to ask. On a constitutional point, if this legislation is to be introduced immediately after the Easter Recess, I should welcome the noble Viscount's assurance that we shall have the draft before we part for that Recess. It is essential that we have ample time to study it.

What proposals are there about the details of how many persons are to be designated from each elected party as part of the negotiating teams? It is of extreme importance—it may be of central importance—to know the Government's judgment about whether there is to be a continuing role either for Senator Mitchell and his two present colleagues or for a successor body. That may be of vital importance when one considers the issue of parallel decommissioning.

From these Benches we shall put forward no obstacle to the passage of legislation designed to bring about all-party talks. But we respectfully repeat: the electoral mechanism is only a first step on a very long journey, which may be tortuous indeed.

My Lords, I thank the noble Viscount the Leader of the House for repeating the Statement made by his right honourable friend. The noble Viscount knows that these Benches support all the efforts that the Government are making through the Secretary of State and his team in an impossibly difficult situation. We congratulate them when they succeed and commiserate with them when they fail. However, consensus on ends cannot entirely preclude criticism and comment on detailed means.

The electoral system seems to be a real hotchpotch. As the noble Lord, Lord Williams, said, it bears some signs of haste. My fear is that, like any project designed to have something for everyone, it may end up pleasing no one rather than representing what we all know is important in Northern Ireland; namely, the maximum point of compromise.

I particularly regret, given that the main representation that the system will produce comes from 18 five-member constituencies, that the Government did not choose to use the single transferable vote in those constituencies. That would have given the voters a chance to get in on the process, to express a preference between those in favour of peace and those less in favour of peace and to distinguish between people as well as between parties.

I saw some fairly confused and bemused looks around the House as the noble Viscount explained the system. I hope noble Lords understand that this is a classic party list system vote, where the only vote that the voters from Northern Ireland will be able to make is for a party, albeit the parties themselves will put a list of candidates in each constituency. I put some emphasis on that point because I feel it is extremely important that the Government, having set their hand to the plough of getting the public of Northern Ireland to be involved in the process as well as the parties, should do everything that they can to maximise vote of participation and ownership of the elections.

I have one or two other questions. The forum which seems to be created by this procedure lives a curious kind of half life, does it not? It is riot a legislature. I imagine that the choice of the word "forum" was considered rather like the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation in the Irish Republic. Who decides the agenda of the forum and who will chair it? Where will it be? We know that that is an important issue in Northern Ireland. What is the so-called one-way valve which links the negotiations to the forum? How will that work?

With regard to the negotiations themselves, the issue that most concerns your Lordships is, I feel, the potential representation of Sinn Fein. The Prime Minister's Statement seems to indicate on page 5 that the only condition for participation by Sinn Fein is that there should again be a ceasefire. Of course there should be a ceasefire. We all want, expect and must see that. But what other conditions apply? Perhaps I am asking an obvious question but I should be grateful for an answer: does Sinn Fein have to take part in the elections? Does it only enter into the negotiations if it has taken part in the elections? As well as undertaking a ceasefire, standing for election and being elected, does it also have to adhere immediately at the first meeting to the Mitchell principles and put decommissioning on the agenda? If it does not, is it then asked to leave the room? I am very unclear about that and many people would like to know the answer.

I mentioned the importance of involving the people of Northern Ireland in the process as the main justification for going down the election route, as, incidentally, it would be for a referendum. It is extremely important that the Government commit themselves and the Northern Ireland Office to a campaign, first, to get voter registration. In some parts of Northern Ireland, voter registration is extremely low. The precedent set by the Home Office of direct door-to-door canvassing would be perfectly possible. Even when there has been a voter registration drive, they should go on from that to run a campaign to get the people of Northern Ireland to turn out and express their wishes, to vote for peace and progress in Northern Ireland. If we are to take the gamble that, in a sense, that stratagem represents of engaging—as the framework document envisages with a referendum and this process does through elections—the people of Northern Ireland, may we encourage them to turn out and make the elections a success?

My Lords, I am grateful to both noble Lords for the spirit in which they approached what the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, rightly described as an extremely delicate process. In no way do I take amiss the fact that both noble Lords asked a series of extremely pertinent questions. I have to say to the House that I shall not be able to give a clear answer to all those questions. I suspect that neither noble Lord would expect me to do so at this stage. However, I shall endeavour to do my best. As I said, I want to emphasise my own personal gratitude and that of Her Majesty's Government for the extraordinarily co-operative spirit that both Opposition parties have shown during this difficult and tortuous time.

Both noble Lords asked about what the noble Lord, Lord Williams, described as the "opaque" nature of the proposals, referring particularly, as did the noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, to the nature of the election. I had considerable sympathy with the noble Lord, Lord Holme, when he said that the list system tends to distinguish between people and parties in favour of parties. I yield to no one in my strong feeling that one of the glories of the British electoral system is that it maintains a direct link between a Member of Parliament and his or her constituency. Those who have had the honour to represent constituencies realise the enormous value of that link.

Nevertheless, in this case we were presented with a difficulty. Since it was clearly impossible for a genuine compromise to be reached as the result of the negotiations between 4th and 13th March, as foreseen in the Statement that I repeated in the House the last time that we addressed this question, the Government had to make a judgment about the system which, in their opinion, was most likely to achieve the primary purpose: a series of elections which they hoped, whatever their reservations, would encourage all the parties in Northern Ireland and particularly the main parties to participate in; and once they had participated, to take part in the forum.

We do not know—I would be foolish to assert otherwise—whether we have achieved our primary objective. I hope that by the end of this afternoon we shall have a clearer idea as to whether or not our judgment proved correct. I can only hope that, in spite of the reservations which I am sure virtually every party will have and indeed the Government have about the system we propose, everybody will recognise that this is the "least bad" in the circumstances. I am certain that were I standing anywhere other than at this Dispatch Box or were my right honourable friend standing anywhere other than at the Dispatch Box in the other place, neither of us would quarrel with the fact that the system we propose is not perfect. However, any other system would have its own drawback.

I hope the House will forgive me if my answer is somewhat longer than usual. Both noble Lords asked a series of extremely important questions which deserve a full answer. One of the advantages of the system is, above all, that each person will vote only once on one piece of paper. The process of voting is therefore simple. That is a considerable advantage. What is rather less simple is the allocation of seats which must be made as a result of the voting system. The allocating of seats, as a result of the fractions that will result, is still the subject of discussion.

Noble Lords will be aware, particularly the noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, with his party's well-known addiction to various forms of proportional representation, that there are a large number of recognised systems for allocating seats under a constituency list method. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Williams, that we examined those systems with some care in order to try to satisfy ourselves that they are workable and fair. However, we have not made a final decision on which method to use. We should like to hear representations from individual parties before we bring forward definite proposals in the Bill. A number of possibilities exist, though I shall spare your Lordships the details. The noble Lord, Lord Holme, in particular will be familiar with the Hare system, the Droop system and the d'Hondt system. I shall be happy to discuss those with him and perhaps take his advice outside your Lordships' House.

I cannot say that the elective process will definitely lead to negotiations. What is absolutely certain is that we and the Republic of Ireland Government are determined to drive this process forward. In order for it to work we must do our best to ensure that the various parties take part in it. It is for them to choose. The elections will take place on or around 30th May subject to the appropriate legislation gaining parliamentary approval and thereafter the negotiations will begin on schedule on 10th June.

Both noble Lords wanted to know how the forum will work. In a sense the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, was right when he said that the answers had not yet been thought through. That is, at least in part, deliberate. The forum itself will have the ability to establish committees, as has been set out in the draft guideline document—it is very much a consultation document—issued to the leaders of the main parties last weekend. I do not know whether either noble Lord has had the chance to study that document. If they have, they will no doubt have noted that, particularly in its revised form, paragraph 19, though not specific, conveys the sort of function anticipated for the forum. Paragraph 19 states:
"The Forum will have the ability to establish committees to consider specific issues within its remit such as social and economic questions, cross-community reconciliation, equity of treatment and aspects of human rights. There will be a requirement that the membership and chairmanship of committees be allocated on a proportional basis reflecting party strengths in the Forum. The Forum or its committees will also be enabled to conduct hearings at which public submissions could be made by relevant bodies and individuals such as community, voluntary, women's and youth groups, trade unions, business and professional organisations, the Churches, academics and others. Any negotiation, any discussion, studies or reports of the Forum could inform the negotiating process which could commission such work. This or any other interaction between the Forum and the negotiating process which might be proposed by participants in the negotiations and which might be of benefit in developing agreement will be by agreement among the participants in the negotiating process and at their instigation".
I am aware that that is not a prescription to be imposed on the forum by the Government. I suggest that that in itself is a strength. If the forum can take that guidance and translate it at its own initiative into working practices, the forum will be much more able to develop a force of its own rather than relying on imposition from Her Majesty's Government.

The noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn, asked about negotiations and whether they would still be in the three-stranded form. The answer is "yes". In relation to the assurance that he asked for, that we would have available before Easter a draft of the proposed legislation, I shall do my best to make sure that the draft is available as soon as is practicable and I shall need to investigate when that date will be. However, we are extremely anxious to share what is proposed on a bipartisan-tripartisan basis in both Houses of Parliament and will be anxious to take both Houses into our confidence as soon as is practicable.

The noble Lords, Lord Williams of Mostyn and Lord Holme of Cheltenham, asked a key question in relation to the role of Siren Fein and its associates, the IRA. I do not believe that. I have heard any dissent from any of the Unionist parties in this regard; if it wishes, Sinn Fein can take part in the elections. We would encourage it to do so. In view of its past record, it would do nothing but good for it to expose itself to the rigour of electoral politics. I hope that it will not duck that challenge. If it does, we can draw our own conclusions.

Thereafter, like everybody else, Sinn Fein can nominate negotiating teams from the membership of the forum in order to begin discussions. In order for it to be able to enter the negotiating chamber at all, as the noble Lord, Lord Holme, said, Sinn Fein will need to have ensured, if it is within its power, an unequivocal renewal of the ceasefire. If the IRA has not renewed that ceasefire, Sinn Fein will not be allowed into the negotiating chamber.

A question still hangs in the air from both noble Lords. We took a chance last time round that the ceasefire was permanent. We made an assumption—I believe we used the word "working" assumption—that, since no bombs had gone off, that ceasefire was permanent. We were cruelly deceived and disappointed. We have to ask ourselves what the IRA can do to convince us, if there is to be a renewed ceasefire, that this time they mean it. The answer must come at the very beginning of talks, of negotiations, and when that comes we will expect every party to sign up, in exactly the same terms, to the six Mitchell principles. If any party refuses to do that—and your Lordships will remember that the Mitchell principles are very specific—then there is no question but that that party will be shown the door. They also, in the words of the communiqué, as part of the first item on the agenda, have to address the question of the mechanics of parallel decommissioning as set out in paragraph 34 of the Mitchell Report.

We will see whether that happens, but I would also like to remind your Lordships that it is not only bombs, bullets and murder that is at stake here. Any party that is committed to peaceful means does not need the paramilitary organisation which enables a terrorist organisation to exist; and we must remember that that paramilitary organisation, during the period of the ceasefire, has not only not been demolished, it has been enhanced. That is something which we would do well to remember in the coming critical days and weeks.

I am well aware that I have trespassed on your Lordships' patience for rather longer than, perhaps, I had any right to, but I would like to take note particularly of the suggestion of the noble Lord, Lord Holme, for a voter registration drive. I would very much like to communicate his suggestion to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. I am sure he will treat it with the seriousness which it deserves.

4.12 p.m.

My Lords, first, I would like to thank the Leader of the House for his explanations so far. One point on which I was not quite clear was at what stage the IRA and Sinn Fein must declare a ceasefire. Is it right that they must declare the ceasefire directly before the talks or directly before the election? If it may be as late as after the election and they are allowed to the polls, this means that we are permitting an election to occur under the intimidation of the terrorist organisations whilst they are not in a ceasefire mode. That, I believe, could be very dangerous indeed.

Whatever his answer may be, either that they must declare it before the election or that they must declare it before the talks, how soon before? If it is before the election, do they have to declare it before the ballot sheets are printed because, if so, there must be a time given. If they do not, then their party would appear on the ballot sheet and one would get destroyed votes as a result, if those votes count for nothing. If it is before the talks, may they continue bombing up until 9th June, if the talks are on the 10th, and then declare a ceasefire and walk through the doors?

This is all very important because, if we look at what the IRA has done over a number of years, when deadlines like this have occurred they have tried to get to the very doors and, if possible, ambush the other parties by persuading the Government to give way slightly on something—for instance, any one of the Mitchell Report requirements—in order for the Unionist parties or other parties to then boycott the talks. Sinn Fein will then say: "We are ready to talk, and it is the Unionists who have destroyed it."

I accept what the Leader of the House said, that the parties would have to sign up to the six requirements in the Mitchell Report. Are these requirements, one by one, to be signed up, or is the Mitchell Report to be signed in totality? If it is only piece by piece, there may be a chance—I would hope not—that the Government might allow one or two of the lesser ones not to be signed up to, and that would put the Unionists out of it. I think that these are important points, and I hope he will be able to answer them.

My Lords, I agree with my noble friend. They are extremely important points. My noble friend will know, almost better than anyone else in your Lordships' House at the moment, that throughout the troubles since 1969 Sinn Fein councillors have been able to present themselves for election. So, when I answer his first question, he will understand that there will be no change from the present situation.

In the absence of a ceasefire, Sinn Fein will be able to take part in elections; but what is perfectly clear is that, unless they declare a ceasefire, they will not be able to begin negotiations. I would go further than that: just as they attempted recently to gain entrance to Stormont Castle during the consultation talks beginning on 4th March, they would find exactly the same refusal as they found then, in the absence of a ceasefire. So I put this with all the clarity at my command: unless there is a ceasefire, they cannot enter the negotiating chamber.

The second question which my noble friend asked I regard as equally important. There is a clear danger that, when presented by the terrorists—as is always possible and, indeed, it is one of their favourite ploys—with the option of giving a little or, on the other hand, facing a return to violence, the terrorists always calculate that we will choose to give a little. Let me be perfectly specific. We have no intention of having the Mitchell principles chipped away in the way that my noble friend fears. The representatives of Sinn Fein will have to sign up to all six unequivocally at the outset of their entry into the negotiating chamber. Unless they do that, they will be asked to leave.

My Lords, may I ask the noble Viscount the Leader of the House how far, if at all, the Irish Government have been consulted on these matters? I ask, because I think it is of very great importance that we carry the Irish Government with us as far as is possible on all these matters, and I was relieved, in fact, to hear the noble Viscount the Leader say that Sinn Fein would be able to take part in the elections. I say that, not out of any regard for the lizard-like manoeuvrings of Mr. Gerry Adams, but because my mind goes back to the days of 1916 and afterwards, when we had to come in the end to negotiations with noted terrorists such as Michael Collins. The treaty was, in fact, signed with Lloyd George and Michael Collins. He came back and the Irish Free State was formed.

At that time the Republican Movement refused to accept that treaty and civil war followed. The Irish Government shot and executed more Irishmen during the next few months than the British had ever done since 1916. That is why it is important, it seems to me, to carry both Sinn Fein, if possible, and certainly the Irish Government with us so that, when we do get a settlement, there is absolutely no doubt that every interested party, except those who will never accept anything but the total triumph of the IRA, is behind the peace process.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I have tried to emphasise in response to similar comments on previous occasions like this the importance of the two governments keeping closely in step and I am happy to re-emphasise that today. The Irish Government have been made aware of what we propose, although I should make it clear that on the point of elections this was a matter for the British Government because we are dealing with elections within the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, as a matter of practicality and courtesy, it was right, once we had decided, that we should advise the Irish Government of what we had decided.

I should perhaps emphasise that the ground rules on negotiation remain the same as forecast and as have been forecast for many months now. Strands two and three of the three-stranded process, about which the noble Lord, Lord Williams, asked me, remain to be negotiated in the form forecast, and strand one is concerned purely with relations within Northern Ireland and is not a matter for the republic. Nevertheless, I should like to emphasise once again that it is important that the two governments march in step and we shall endeavour to continue to do so. If there is any suggestion that the IRA is beginning to split the two governments, it will make further progress increasingly difficult.

My Lords, I wish every possible success to the proposals in the Statement read out by the noble Viscount. Can he say how the British Government, or indeed the Dublin Government, will keep in touch with the new elected body? It will be there discussing and, presumably and it is to be hoped, coming to sensible conclusions. Will Her Majesty's Government have observers there, or is some other arrangement in view?

My Lords, the elected body is within part of the United Kingdom and therefore the Republic of Ireland does not have a locus in the proceedings of that body. I am sure the noble Lord would want that to be so. At the same time it is clearly important that this highly complex negotiating process, if, as we hope, it manages to get under way, should be co-ordinated in terms of its mechanics if not its substance. Therefore it is suggested—it is merely a matter for consultation at the moment—that there should be a co-ordinating committee to look at the mechanics of the three-stranded talks and on which representatives of the government of the republic would sit. That perhaps is the best way in which we can ensure that good order and discipline are maintained.

Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Bill

4.23 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office
(Baroness Denton of Wakefield)

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

The purpose of the Bill is to provide for the legal powers which are necessary as a supplement to the ordinary criminal law to counter terrorism in Northern Ireland. The Bill re-enacts, with omissions and amendments, the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991. It is made necessary, first, by the fact that the 1991 Act expires in August this year and, secondly, by the fact that the security situation in Northern Ireland requires that the powers be renewed.

Perhaps I may describe briefly the situation as it existed in the run-up to the terrorist ceasefires of August and October 1994, and since then up to the present time. The ceasefires declared in 1994 saw a significant down turn in some types of terrorist activity. In the 17 months prior to 31st August 1994, 117 people died in Northern Ireland as a result of terrorist activity. In the period of just over 18 months from September 1994 to 17th March 1996, 15 people were killed in Northern Ireland. These figures do not include the recent London murders. During 1994 in Northern Ireland there were 348 shooting incidents and 207 bombing incidents; in 1995 there were 50 and six respectively. However, during 1995 armed robberies continued at an alarming rate—421, compared with 555 in 1994—and the number of punishment attacks rose to 315 over the period 1st September 1994 to 17th March 1996, compared with 238 over the 18-month period in the run-up to the provisional IRA's ceasefire of 31st August 1994.

In response to the ceasefires, the Government relocated more than 1,500 troops to their home bases; they removed several Army bases and security installations; routine military patrolling in support of the police dropped by around 80 per cent.; closed roads at the border with the Republic of Ireland were opened; the majority of orders under the vehicle control zone order were revoked; all Northern Ireland exclusion orders were lifted; and the civilian search unit was disbanded. The Government's response was measured and proportionate. Their response to the breakdown in PIRA's ceasefire has been so, too.

Steps have been taken to reintroduce appropriate security measures; for example, police officers are again wearing flak jackets and patrolling in armoured vehicles; they have increased their patrolling and are carrying long weapons. In addition, two of the three relocated battalions have returned to Northern Ireland to be available to support the police if required.

The Government's view remains that for as long as the terrorist organisations retain their capacity in terms of armaments, organisation and training to renew their campaign of violence with little or no warning, it would be irresponsible to dismantle any security measures on the ground which would not be capable of being reintroduced quickly. The same argument applies to emergency legislation. The Government and the security forces must retain their ability to protect the community from terrorist attack. It is our duty.

I now turn to the Bill itself. Like its predecessors, the current Act has enabled the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland to function effectively and fairly, and has provided the legal basis for the police and Army to take appropriate and effective action against terrorism. At the same time it has provided terrorist suspects with appropriate safeguards.

The Government have consistently made it clear that the emergency legislation will remain on the statute book only for as long as is necessary. The provisions are regularly reviewed independently, at the invitation of the Government. The most recent major review of the emergency provisions Act was conducted by Mr. John Rowe Q.C. in 1994. His terms of reference were:
"To consider what changes to existing provisions should be made when the time comes to replace the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1991 in August 1996, taking into account the need to ensure that there are both effective powers to deal with terrorist violence and adequate safeguards for the individual".
The Government are indebted to Mr. Rowe for the work he has done and for the clarity of expression of his views and recommendations, as set out in the report of his review. Mr. Rowe's work concluded on 1st October 1994, just one month after the Provisional IRA's ceasefire announcement of 31st August 1994.

The Government, while having made a working assumption that the ceasefires were intended to be permanent, could not accept that they brought about anything more than a fragile peace. This view was reinforced by the background terrorist activities which I have described, and has been vindicated by subsequent events. On this basis, Mr. Rowe's conclusions were considered to be as valid in the post-ceasefire situation as they clearly would be in a non-ceasefire scenario. In shaping the Bill, therefore, much of what John Rowe recommended in his report, has been taken on board.

I shall take a few minutes now to outline the detail of the Bill and to explain in what way it differs from the current Act. The most obvious change is the removal of the confiscation provisions, set out in Sections 47 to 56 and Schedule 4; and the authorised investigator provisions set out in Section 57 and Schedule 5 of the current Act. Broadly similar provisions will be introduced to the ordinary law by way of the Proceeds of Crime (Northern Ireland) Order which will be laid after the Easter Recess. These proposed new provisions will apply to all forms of financial crime including those perpetrated by or on behalf of terrorist organisations. Indeed, in some respects, these new provisions will be stronger than those in the EPA which they will replace.

The EPA Bill is in eight parts and has six schedules. Part I and Schedule 1 contain provisions relating to the scheduled offences; that is, offences which merit special treatment under the Bill. Schedule 1 lists and defines the scheduled offences; Part I makes arrangements for preliminary inquiries in magistrates' courts. It sets out the conditions for granting bail and for the holding in custody of young persons and their treatment on conviction; and it provides for the setting of statutory time limits in scheduled cases. It makes special arrangements for the trial of scheduled offences; namely, the continuance of the system of Diplock Courts, with its associated safeguards.

A number of changes are proposed to Part I. Certain offences have been removed from the schedule. They are those which, in the light of experience, have proved not to be charged in terrorist cases. Other offences have been made capable of being certified out. These include offences under the Theft Act (Northern Ireland) 1969 of robbery with violence and aggravated burglary. Often cases involving these offences could safely be tried by jury as they tend to be committed without terrorist involvement. Part I also includes a new provision which allows for such transitional arrangements as may be necessary in the event that an offence is added to, or removed from, the list of scheduled offences.

New and more flexible provisions have also been introduced for the setting of time limits for remand proceedings. In relation to custody time limits in particular, experience has shown that the current provision, as contained in Section 8 of the 1991 Act, is too rigid to be applied in Northern Ireland. There is in existence a scheme of time limits and this has demonstrated clearly that if a statutory scheme had been introduced in accordance with Section 8 of the Act, a number of potentially dangerous defendants on serious terrorist charges would have been released on bail. The new provisions contained in Clauses 8 and 9 of the Bill are in a broader form and contain less detail. They permit regulations to be made to set time limits and to specify the circumstances in which time limits could be extended by a court.

Substantial progress has already been made in reducing the time that is spent in custody on remand by those facing serious charges. In a Written Answer on 7th December last year, I reported on the first three years of the administrative time limits scheme to which I have just referred. I referred at that time to a substantial reduction in the average time that is taken to process cases from first remand to arraignment, and to a particularly impressive fall over the past year in waiting times between arraignment and the start of trial.

Part II of the Bill relates to powers of arrest, search and seizure. It provides for the specific circumstances in which the police and Army have power to enter and search premises; arrest and seize without a warrant; search for ammunition and transmitters; search for, and seize, explosives; examine documents; stop and question; and requisition and interfere with private property and public highways. It creates a new offence of failing to stop and be searched when required to do so by a police officer or a member of the Armed Forces. At present, police officers and soldiers have the power to stop and undertake a search for munitions or transmitters, but anyone failing to stop for a search does not commit an offence under the Act and the right of arrest under Section 17 of the current Act does not apply. The Bill corrects this.

Part III and Schedule 2 deal with offences against public security and public order. Part III continues in force the offence of directing a terrorist organisation. It lists the proscribed organisations and provides for offences relating to membership of, or support for, such organisations. The provisions make it an offence to dress in paramilitary clothing and forbid possession of any item intended for terrorist purposes, as well as the collecting or communicating of information likely to be of use to terrorists. They also re-enact an offence relating to training in the making or use of firearms or explosives.

The Bill strengthens the current provision in relation to proof of possession of information likely to be of use to terrorists, by providing that evidence of proximity shall be treated as proof of possession unless proved otherwise. This is consistent with the onus of proof applied in the case of prohibited articles such as explosives, firearms and ammunition.

Part IV and Schedule 3 contain the provisions relating to executive detention. These powers are retained in their current lapsed state. Their retention is the subject of some debate; but it is the Government's firm belief that until they are satisfied that peace in Northern Ireland is permanent and irreversible, it would be grossly irresponsible not to ask Parliament to re-enact this power.

Part V deals with the regulation of the provision of private security services. It continues to regulate all private security firms in Northern Ireland offering security guard services. The provision of security services without a certificate under Part V is prohibited. A new provision in this part allows failure to comply with Part V of the 1991 Act as well as failure to comply with Part V of the new Act, to be taken into account in deciding whether to grant or revoke a certificate.

Part VI deals with persons in custody under the terrorism provisions. It sets out the statutory rights of those in police custody under the terrorism provisions; for example, the right of a suspect to have a friend or relative informed of his detention, and the right of access to legal advice.

At this point it is appropriate to mention the recent judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the case of John Murray, which has caused the Government to consider whether any amendment is necessary to the Bill to comply with the requirements of the convention.

The Murray case concerned inferences drawn from silence. On the general question of whether inferences may be drawn, the judgment supported the Government in their view that the drawing of inferences was a matter of common sense. But on the narrower question of inferences being drawn at a trial from silence at a time when access to a legal adviser was denied, the court found against the UK.

The Government are considering how best to respond to the judgment. We have reached the view that the implications of the judgment may go beyond Northern Ireland and beyond the emergency legislation. For that reason we do not think that an amendment to this Bill would be the most appropriate response. We have not yet concluded which steps, legislative and administrative, should he pursued to ensure that we comply with our obligations under the convention.

Part VII and Schedule 4 deal with miscellaneous matters. A number of changes are made here. The current Act contains a discretionary power to make codes of practice in relation to the police and armed forces' powers of arrest, search and seizure. That provision had been removed from the Bill, in recognition of the improvement in the security situation brought about by the ceasefires. However, in the light of recent IRA attacks, and the possibility, which we all hope fervently will not be the case, that the security forces' powers set out in Part II of the Bill could still be needed for some little time, the Government intend to table an amendment to the Bill reinstating the discretionary power to make such codes of practice for your Lordships' consideration at Committee stage.

The basis of the appointment of the independent assessor of military complaints procedures has been changed from a mandatory to a discretionary one. This will allow flexibility to discontinue the post in the event that routine military support to the police is no longer needed.

Part VII also contains a new provision which will provide for the silent video recording of all interviews which take place in the police holding centres, and for a code of practice to be drawn up for that purpose.

The case for introducing some form of electronic recording of interviews with terrorist suspects in Northern Ireland has been argued by successive reviewers of the Emergency Provisions Act and others.

The Government, after consultation with the police, have decided to introduce a system of silent video recording. This will add to the already extensive range of protections which exist for individuals being interviewed in the police holding centres. The police are content that the scheme which is proposed will not raise the same security concerns as audio recording, where the concern existed that suspects, fearing for their lives, would be unwilling to assist the police if they knew their co-operation was being recorded. Also, a system of silent video recording would not require a statutory scheme to prevent the disclosure of tapes by or to those who might have sinister motives for seeking to acquire them. Disclosure is a key issue.

The Government have concluded that a scheme which would safeguard tapes to the extent that would be necessary in Northern Ireland to meet the security concerns to which I have referred would be so elaborate and so restrictive as to undermine the benefits of recording the interviews.

Part VIII and Schedules 5 and 6 contain the supplementary provisions: included is a provision which will allow for the powers of arrest, search and seizure conferred upon the police and the Army to be separated, to allow the Army powers to be more easily suspended if during the lifetime of the Act that becomes a realistic prospect. Also included in this part is a new, technical provision to avoid problems caused by the transition from the old Act to the new Act.

Part VIII also contains the provisions for the repeal of the Act in two years' time. The new Act will have a lifespan of two years, compared with the five-year lifespan of the current Act. Following the breakdown in PIRA's ceasefire, the Government have given careful consideration to the arguments for and against extending the life of the new Act beyond two years.

The Government have decided not to make an amendment to the Bill at this stage, but should the security situation in two years' time require the emergency provisions to be extended, they will not hesitate to introduce a Bill at that time for that purpose.

I shall conclude my remarks by looking to the future. Your Lordships will be aware that an independent review is currently underway into the future need for counter-terrorist legislation in the United Kingdom. The review is led by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, who has the following terms of reference:
"To consider the future need for specific counter-terrorism legislation in the UK if the cessation of violence connected with the affairs of Northern Ireland leads to a lasting peace, taking into account the United Kingdom's obligations under international law; and to make recommendations".
I am sure your Lordships will join with me in very much welcoming the fact that this review is taking place. We look forward to its outcome. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, has asked me to convey his apologies to your Lordships that he is unable to be with us this afternoon.

No one can doubt the need for this Bill. The events of recent weeks demonstrate how very necessary it is, much as we all regret it. We remain full of hope that a peaceful settlement will be reached for the people of Northern Ireland; they deserve nothing less. But there is much delicate work to be done. In the meantime the Government's priority is to protect the lives and the property of the people of Northern Ireland and this Bill will provide the means to do that. I commend the Bill to your Lordships' House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time—(Baroness Denton of Wakefield.)

4.46 p.m.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her usual careful exposition. She and I, together with the noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, are used to having a very small congregation late at night; but earlier in the day the congregation is enlarged, in particular by the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, who I welcome to our discussions on Northern Ireland on the occasion of his maiden speech.

The Minister concluded by saying that no one could suggest that this Bill was not necessary. I do not suggest that a Bill is not necessary, but I do suggest that this Bill has defects. The defects of any legislation of this sort necessarily arise out of the emergency circumstances or circumstances where the normal rule of law has in part been impeached or impeded, or where the normal judicial processes cannot work fully and fairly. It is self-evident that there are difficulties in empanelling juries who can try criminal cases in Northern Ireland.

My objection is that the balance has not been properly drawn. I should like your Lordships to consider briefly one or two of the provisions because this is an argument and a debate that has been long lasting. First, I welcome the limitation from five years to two years in the currency and the life of this Bill. Secondly, I wholeheartedly endorse, first, the setting up of the review under the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, who is assisted by Mr. Justice Kerr from the Northern Ireland Bench, and, secondly, the fact that it is the noble and learned Lord who has been chosen to chair that review. As is well known and on the public record, we on this side of the House and, indeed, the Liberal Democrats, have been pressing for such a review for a very long time. I hope that it is not ungracious to say that the review has been set up far too late, although we welcome the fact that it has been set up in the end.

I turn now to one or two of the clauses in the Bill. Clause 10 is a welcome introduction of a degree of flexibility. It means that the Diplock non-jury courts can if necessary, and where expedient and appropriate, be held outside the Crown Court sitting in Belfast. The consultations that I have had, which have been quite careful, with legal practitioners in Northern Ireland indicate that they support that course in appropriate cases. I believe that that provision usefully amends the former Act.

Turning to Clause 37, not for the last time we in England and Wales should be able to learn something from the Northern Ireland experience. Clause 37 is of great importance since it prohibits private security services acting for reward unless they are certificated and licensed. To many of us in your Lordships' House that seems to be a provision that can usefully be introduced into the legislation in England and Wales.

My real criticism of the Bill derives from Clause 53. That provision empowers the Secretary of State to introduce a regime, underpinned by a code of practice, which relates, among other things, to the silent video recording of interviews. The Minister paid full tribute to the work of Mr. John Rowe QC. As long ago as February 1995 Mr. Rowe said in his report that audio recording, not silent video, was the very least that should be provided, and that if a video recording was made as well it would be so much the better. Mr. Rowe had considerable experience of Northern Ireland. His recommendation was very clear. I regret to say that I have heard nothing from the Minister to persuade me that Mr. Rowe is wrong and the Government are right.

Mr. Justice Kerr of the Northern Ireland bench tried a case that began in August 1993 and finished in December 1994. A very substantial part of that trial was taken up by the voir dire as to whether or not confessions or admissions had been made and whether or not they were admissible. The Minister has said that there is no efficient mechanism that the Government can devise to safeguard the improper disclosure of audio tape recordings. A long time ago Sir Louis Blom-Cooper, at the request of the Government, examined this point. I studied his carefully researched and argued report on a number of occasions. He concluded that a closely prescribed procedure for the disclosure of tape recordings only to those detainees charged with terrorist offences, and who at trial challenged the admissibility of statements, would be a safeguard. In his report there are many safeguards, with which I will not weary your Lordships, that persuade me that audio recordings can be kept in the circumstances of proper security.

What is the purpose of an audio recording? It includes at least the following. First, it avoids endless trials about who said what to whom in what circumstances, namely, the voir dire. The single most effective measure under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984, which limited trials in this country both in duration and expense, was the introduction of audio recording. Secondly, it is much more efficient as a true record of what was said. It includes questions which a trial judge or jury need to consider: the shade of meaning, the nuance of voice, the tone of voice of the question and the way that the answer is given. Thirdly, it makes the conviction of the guilty more and not less likely. Fourthly, it improves police performance. All senior police officers to whom I have ever spoken about this matter underline that proposition. It improves the quality of the interview and the evidence derived from it. Not least, the audio recording is a very powerful, sometimes fundamental, safeguard to the honest, honourable policeman who is falsely accused of misbehaviour and misdeeds in the circumstances of the interview. Therefore, it is a source of regret that the Government have felt unable to introduce audio recording as opposed simply to silent video recording. Silent video recording is an improvement but a very limited one.

Clause 55 refers to the right to compensation. After all these months and years, is the Minister able to say whether the Government have at last reached any conclusion about the future of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme in Northern Ireland? Some may say, unkindly, that that is not a question directly referable to the structure of this Bill, but at least I had the modest decency to give the Minister notice that I would yet again put that question.

All in all, we regret the necessity for legislation, which sometimes can be draconian in either its structure or use. Emergency circumstances require deviations from the norm. However, I suggest that the Government ought to have gone further with audio recording as a safeguard to interviewees as well as police officers.

4.55 p.m.

My Lords, I too thank the noble Baroness for her customarily clear and cogent presentation of the contents and case for this Bill. It comes at a sensitive time when in Northern Ireland we are poised in limbo between peace and violence. We on these Benches had it in mind—I put it in the past tense since it preceded the terrible events at Canary Wharf—to table an amendment that this Bill should be for one year only in the first instance. We felt then that the work of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, might overtake it and there would be a chance to have a comprehensive look at a new peaceful situation in Northern Ireland. Unhappily, that is not assuredly the case. The noble Baroness is quite right to remind us of the prevalence of punishment beatings and armed robberies, quite apart from the murders of five people in Belfast by Direct Action Against Drugs, which may well be a cover name for terrorists, and various horrendous incidents in London.

Broadly speaking, the Government can expect our support for the Bill. However, I do not believe that it got off to a very good start. Curiously, the Government did not consult the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights in advance of the Bill. The Minister will recall that the commission had received specific assurances from the Government that it would be consulted in such matters. The commission has strongly criticised the Government for their lack of consultation and expressed deep concern that the Bill has been brought forward in this way with so few changes. When the noble Baroness replies, can she tell us how to avoid this problem? There is no point in having a standing advisory commission on human rights if it is not consulted. In fairness, the Bill in another place has made good progress in Committee. The Government have made several concessions. Although some of them are technical matters, it demonstrates a welcome flexibility of approach.

Since we regard the 1991 Act and now this Bill as a regrettable necessity, some of the changes are welcome. For instance, the consolidation of terrorist funding provisions in Part VII and Clause 5 are admirable. The Minister will recall that we called for that from these Benches. The provisions relating to terrorist funding are put into a special proceeds of crime order, which will come before us soon, together with similar provisions in the PTA. It is extremely important that we take a comprehensive and co-ordinated approach to the question of the sources of money for terrorists.

I turn to the issue of the video taping of police interviews. I agree with a great deal of what has been said by the noble Lord, Lord Williams of Mostyn. I do not intend to repeat it, save to commend to the Government the report of Sir Louis Blom-Cooper. The report is overwhelmingly persuasive on the case for audio taping. However, as far as it goes, silent video taping is a step forward. I suspect that when the noble Baroness referred to others who had been pressing for it she had in mind the fact that for the five years during which I had been privileged to speak on these matters from these Benches I had asked the Government why there could not be taping of interviews. I believe that it is better to have video taping than nothing, though we should move towards audio taping.

I refer to the question of custody time limits in Clause 8. I congratulate the Government on having almost eliminated the backlog of criminal cases pending and succeeded in reducing custody times a great deal over the past 18 months. However, although the Bill makes it possible to set custody time limits none has yet been set. Perhaps the Minister could let us know when this could happen. I am glad also to see that the omission of the Ulster Defence Association (Clause 30) from the list of proscribed organisations was purely a drafting error. I believe that everyone in the House would want to congratulate the former Loyalist paramilitaries on their attitude to the provocation by the Provisional IRA and on not responding to it. That has been impressive and admirable, but those people who might take up arms on the Loyalist side must be clear that should they return to violence they will be afforded treatment no different from that which we currently provide for Republican terrorists.

Finally, I have two points of concern. The first is the issue in Clause 47 of the right to silence. Clause 47 restricts rights to a solicitor in the first 48 hours of police questioning. The police have to put in writing the reasons why a solicitor is not allowed. However, with the change introduced since 1991—that inferences of guilt can be drawn from an interviewee's silence—having a solicitor present becomes that much more important. It is possible that we may want to come back with an amendment on that point with which of course the European Court of Human Rights will concern itself.

My other point of concern relates to Clauses 20 and 23 under which inspectors are allowed to authorise searches. Selectively, that is a useful power, but I cannot for the life of me think why it has been extended from chief inspectors to inspectors. There are 166 RUC chief inspectors and 501 inspectors. Why do we need to increase by a factor of three the privileged group which has been given powers previously reserved to magistrates? I fail to understand why that is necessary. With those provisos, and no doubt we shall return to those questions on subsequent occasions, I give the Minister the assurance that, in general, we shall be supporting the Bill.

5.2 p.m.

My Lords, it is with some nervousness that I am making my maiden speech in your House during this sensitive debate. I live in Northern Ireland and I have spent a great deal of time in the past 20 years working for the public good in the Province. I hope that I may be able to continue some of that work in your Lordships' House in the future. I am very proud to have inherited this peerage from my father and grandfather, who was the first Baron, both of whom spent a large part of their lives involved in Northern Ireland politics. Indeed, they spanned the full 50 years which was the duration of that Parliament, but as far as I can ascertain neither spoke in this House.

I am an Ulsterman, and when I am at Twickenham I cheer for the boys in green. However, I served as a regular soldier with the Grenadier Guards for 12 years and competed in two Olympic games for Great Britain. I am an Irishman whose sovereign is the Queen and whose colours are the Union Jack.

While I was doing some research for this speech, I read the maiden speech made in another place in April 1969 by a fervent young Ulster civil rights leader of the day. Having read it, I asked myself: What has changed since then? Some cynics outside the House might say, "Nothing". This is very far from the truth. Our speech-maker of the day was demonstrating about social injustices such as housing allocations, which at that time were in the control of the district councils. It should be remembered that in 1969 in Northern Ireland only ratepayers had a vote for local council district councillors. That disfranchised all those living in public authority housing. She complained of the lack of equal opportunities in the workplace, and the perceived hypocrisy of successive Stormont governments. Today, that has changed significantly. Sadly soon after she made that speech the democratic process was highjacked by the terrorists. But in response to the public demand of the day Stormont was suspended by the Conservative Government in 1972 and direct rule was imposed from Westminster. Later in the same year the district councils were reorganised and their powers significantly reduced. The Northern Ireland Housing Executive was set up to tackle the serious housing difficulties of the time. One of the results of that is that we now have some of the finest public authority housing in the kingdom, and housing as an issue is off the political agenda.

Proportional representation was introduced for all elections, and today everyone over the age of 18 has a fair vote. The Fair Employment Commission is now in place to ensure equality of opportunity in the workplace for all, regardless of creed or culture. However, it must be said that there are still concerns over inequality of unemployment. That will only be solved by further inward investment in the west of the Province. I have known and admired many of the Ministers of the Crown who, at great risk and sacrifice to themselves, have been responsible for the positive changes which have taken place over the years. Perhaps I may take this opportunity to pay my tribute to them today.

The real issue preventing peaceful progress towards prosperity both north and south is terrorism. To be successful the terrorist requires a sympathetic indigenous population and a considerable degree of external funding. I do not believe that the IRA is short of funds, but I do believe that it is running very short of credibility. As a result of the many measures and actions taken by successive British Governments, usually with a good measure of support from the Opposition of the day, and now linked for the first time to the unequivocal stance taken against Irish terrorism by both the Irish and American governments, we are faced with a real opportunity for peace and progress in Ireland. Irish people everywhere have demonstrated their desire for peace, but neither culture has shown any desire or willingness for a change of sovereignty. In many local authority areas in the Province there is evidence of a coming together for the betterment of the community, and there may even be signs of a pragmatic form of power sharing. It is my belief that the border will not disappear in my lifetime, but its significance will steadily reduce. It is ironic that while borders across Europe have been coming down, the Irish border, as a direct result of the actions of the IRA, has had to be not only strengthened but fortified.

An acceptable method of replacing direct rule from Westminster must be found. I submit that it is important to raise the intellectual level of debate among the elected representatives from within the community in the Province. That I believe must start at district council level. It is with those local authorities that I believe the future lies. Once the threat of terrorism subsides and local politicians are again able to concentrate fully on the social needs of their electorate, those same politicians must be given the responsibility and authority to enable them to play a full part in the democratic process.

I hope that my noble friend the Minister will forgive me for suggesting that the democratic process in Ulster will have to be rebuilt from the bottom up and not from the top down. In conclusion, I believe that there is now a real possibility of putting the border issue and the terrorist on the back burner. That will only happen if the resolve of this Parliament and those of the Republic of Ireland and the United States remains constant. In the meantime, we must remain constantly vigilant against the terrorist with all the powers necessary available to those charged with the defence of this realm against terrorism.

5.9 p.m.

My Lords, I begin my congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, on a fluent maiden speech. I knew his father and his grandfather. I am glad to see him now a Member of this House. I hope that we shall hear from him many times in the future. He is well known, not merely for his business ability but for his public service. He brought great credit to us all by taking part in the bob-sleigh race in the Olympic Games. If he can negotiate the perils of that, he will be able to negotiate any lesser perils he may meet in this House.

I stated on Tuesday on the order for the renewal of the Prevention of Terrorism Act the reasons why I consider it necessary to continue anti-terrorist measures. I quoted Mr. J. J. Rowe's report in which he put the matter very cogently. I do not intend to repeat what I said. Indeed, the Minister has already given us many reasons in her speech.

Therefore, I intend to refer to a few clauses in the Act rather than to attempt an exhaustive review of it. First, there is the renewal of the provision whereby scheduled offences are tried by a judge without a jury; in other words, terrorist offences. They have become known as the Diplock courts because that course was recommended by Lord Diplock and his recommendation was followed. The reason for that is that jurors were being intimidated. Unfortunate citizens were called onto a jury panel through no wish of their own and were then subjected to intimidation by people who wanted them to find a not guilty verdict. It was unfair to the jurors and very bad indeed for the system. I am glad to see that the Diplock courts are to continue. In those cases, the judge must give a reasoned judgment as to why he has reached a decision either to acquit or convict the accused. I support that.

I am glad to see also that Clause 20 renews the powers of the Army and the police to carry out searches for munitions and radio transmitters. Clause 21 means that a full report must be given of all activities carried out under Clause 20. If any questions arise as regards that behaviour, the report can be referred to.

I am glad to see that Clause 21(6) creates an offence of failing to stop for the Army or the police. It was quite ridiculous that that was not an offence. However, that has now been cured, and quite rightly so.

Clause 29 is concerned with people who direct the activities of terrorist organisations. That is very important. There are people who sit back in safety elsewhere and direct operations while letting some other unfortunate person run the risk of being caught with the bomb or whatever it happens to be. Culpability is even greater on the part of the people who are directing the operations and hiding behind other people who are carrying them out. It is essential that that should be an offence because, if those people can be rooted out, a large part of the problem would be solved.

I am glad to see it is to be an offence to dress up to show membership of a terrorist organisation. It is sheer provocation on the part of people who, not merely at paramilitary funerals but at parades and so on, try to stir up trouble by wearing their paramilitary uniforms of one kind and another. It is extremely important that that should be prohibited.

The noble Lord, Lord Holme of Cheltenham, referred to Part V of the Bill and said that he thought that that should be extended. That provides that private security firms must be registered. He said that that should be extended to England and Wales. I would go even further and say that Scotland should also be subject to the provision. It should apply to the whole of the United Kingdom. It is far too simple to say, "Oh no, this is not a terrorist organisation. This is a security firm". That is a poor bluff, and the registration of such firms will prevent that because they will have to prove that they are legitimate.

I offer my support for the Bill. I join with others in saying that we look forward to the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, which I hope will guide us and help us in the provision of future legislation.

5.16 p.m.

My Lords, I strongly support the powerful arguments advanced by the Minister in support of the provisions of the Bill. I believe that it is important not only as an issue of law but also for the reassurance which the forces of law and order and the general public in Northern Ireland must derive from the recognition that they still need protection.

To take an instance relevant to the Bill, though in fact raised during our discussion of the regulations last week, I have heard exclusion orders dismissed as internal exile and a threat to the human rights of the person so excluded or detained. But the Government have a duty to defend the rights of potential victims where the person so excluded or detained is believed to intend violence against the public.

The IRA itself has not hesitated, in the midst of the ceasefire, to serve its own version of exclusion orders in terms of ordering a man and his family who have become persona non grata in its eyes to leave their homes in Northern Ireland and never to return on pain of death. Though there can he no comparison between the duty of proper and lawful behaviour laid upon a government and the savage rule of the jungle operated by the IRA, yet the victims make that equation and have a right to see themselves being protected from potential harm. Any deterrent action, properly applied within the law, which forces the IRA to abort an operation for lack of a courier, a bomber or a carrier of bomb-making equipment seems to me well worth it.

In the context of the threat to peace which the IRA continues to pose and of the Statement made earlier this afternoon, I should like to take the opportunity to comment on some related issues. One is the frequent and wholly unsustainable comparison made by some between Sinn Fein/IRA in Northern Ireland and the ANC in South Africa, and, even more offensively, between Gerry Adams and that great man, Nelson Mandela.

Sinn Fein, a minority party representing only a tiny fraction of the electorate, has the right to vote and to elect representatives to Parliament, and thus to put its case through the democratic process. The fact that Gerry Adams, having been so elected, chose not to take his seat because he did riot recognise the authority of Parliament, nor of the Crown, does not alter the fact that Sinn Fein has always had the democratic mandate. The ANC, representing the large black majority in South Africa—the majority—did not have the vote and was deprived of a democratic and peaceful way of advancing its case: it had no choice but to have recourse to action outside the law as it stood then. There is no comparison between those two cases, and it angers me to hear a shoddy and devious small-time politician and thug compared with Mandela.

My next concern is that I hope very much that our Government and the Irish Government will not be in danger of going too far to placate an implacable opponent. I was reassured greatly by what my noble friend said, but a very small minority which happens to be armed with Semtex and a large arsenal of modern arms, must not be allowed to marginalise the vast majority which includes not only the unionists but a significant number of nationalists or republicans.

My Lords, no doubt the noble Baroness is aware that there is a large Protestant paramilitary force in Northern Ireland.

Yes, my Lords; I am well aware of that fact. The Protestant paramilitaries have not resumed their operations. They were the first last year to suggest that an international organisation might set up the decommissioning process and look into it. I do not believe that there is any fair comparison between the two.

Even Mitchell McLaughlin, speciously complaining recently of the disenfranchisement (by which he meant the refusal by both Governments to talk to or engage directly with Sinn Fein) only claimed that there were,
"between 35 and 40% of the nationalist population in the North—those who supported his Party",
who were being "disenfranchised". So Sinn Fein knows that it represents only a third of the nationalist constituency, which is, in turn, heavily in the minority in the whole voting population. Its disenfranchisement can end just as soon as Sinn Fein/IRA (two sides of the same coin) decides that it is to its advantage to declare an end to the latest ceasefire and to make the necessary commitment to peaceful negotiation, and power through the ballot, not the bullet.

Yet on all sides the unionists and the many others who reject Sinn Fein/IRA are likely to be, as my noble friend Lord Brookeborough so justly said, presented as the villains, destroying the peace process and obstructing it; and, indeed, actually presuming to say that they will not sit down to negotiate with those who have not explicitly rejected IRA violence and who bring their guns to the table. That is called the veto and is apparently regarded as a sinister obstructionist tactic. Would noble Lords expect the lamb to come to the wolf for slaughter without protest? Moreover, the political representatives of the majority—I emphasise the word "majority"—have names and faces. Do we know the names and faces of the IRA council who presume to decide the fate of Northern Ireland, and, indeed—let us make no mistake—of the South, too, if they had their way?

I deeply hope that the Government will not risk throwing away the substance for the shadow. The majority of the people of Northern Ireland must not be treated as the guilty parties and the blame laid on them if negotiations fail—for fail they may well do, for the simple reason that Sinn Fein/IRA's demands are not such that they can ever be met. On the other hand, the wholly reasonable pre-condition, much hated by Sinn Fein/IRA, that the majority, and the Governments, and the US Government, wish to make is that Sinn Fein/IRA should reactivate the ceasefire, and for good, and discuss and begin to implement decommissioning as the first act of the all-party talks.

If the IRA gave up all its Semtex—something that the loyalist paramilitaries have never had—that would be a significant start. Such a precondition is surely essential to normal political negotiation. But the talks will fail, right as I suppose both Governments are to press ahead and hope for a miracle, because Sinn Fein/IRA's declared political agenda is one which neither Northern Ireland nor the Dublin Government could accept.

Let us hear what the Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams—that man who says he has no control over the IRA but still demands to be heard, and is heard only because he is the IRA—had to say in an interview just a week ago. He speaks of:
"an alternative strategy to bring about political and constitutional change which was developed in dialogue initially between myself and John Hume, and then with the Irish Government"—
that was the Government of Albert Reynolds and Dick Spring—
"and with key elements of Irish American opinion … This political approach involved a democratic consensus to deal with the causes of conflict in the context of a number of clearly defined democratic principles".
That is all perfectly respectable. He goes on:
"From Sinn Fein's perspective [for that read Sinn Fein/IRA] these principles are:
  • (a) peace, to be sustained, must be based on a just and lasting negotiated settlement
  • (b) Partition has failed
  • (c) present structures are therefore inadequate to sustain peace and must there be changed
  • (d) an internal settlement is not a solution
  • (e) Partition and the British jurisdiction breach the principle of national self-determination
  • (f) the Irish people as a whole have an absolute right to national self-determination and must be able to exercise this right freely and without external impediment
  • (g) the exercise of the right to national self-determination is a matter of agreement between the Irish people alone
  • (h) it is for the Irish and British Governments, in consultation with all parties, to co-operate to bring this about in the shortest possible time and to legislate accordingly
  • (i) The unionists can have no veto over the discussions involved in this, nor over the outcome of those discussions. There is a need to engage northern unionist and Protestant opinion on the democratic principle of national self-determination, assure them a full commitment to their civil and religious rights"—
  • that is very respectable—
    "and persuade them of the need for their participation in building an Irish society based on equality and national reconciliation;
    (j) a solution—a negotiated settlement—requires change, political and constitutional. The effect of this change would be to bring about the exercise by the Irish people of our right to national self-determination
    (k) an agreed unitary and independent Ireland is the option desired by us
    (l) an agreed Ireland [perhaps he meant a united Ireland] is only achievable and viable if it can earn and enjoy the allegiance of the different traditions in this island by accommodating diversity and providing national reconciliation".
    Stripped of the verbiage, that adds up to a united Ireland under Sinn Fein/IRA control: Brits out, and the domination by a small minority, in both ends of the island, over the majority, who will have no veto on those interesting proceedings.

    In the same long article, Gerry Adams said:
    "there should be no demands which cannot be delivered, such as decommissioning, no commitment to political formulae which are elevated to political principles before negotiations have even begun, as happened in the Forum (on Peace and Reconciliation) on the issue of the nationalist veto"—
    a report which Sinn Fein/IRA rejected—
    "and no further false trails with negotiations which have the effect of providing potential or actual stalls and diversions".
    The diversion provided by Canary Wharf is, of course, not in that category.

    I have inflicted those long quotations on your Lordships because we hear all too seldom what the beast itself is saying. The apologists for Sinn Fein/IRA present the case rather differently, and certainly more opaquely. But that is why the majority parties in Northern Ireland are unhappy that Strand 1, Northern Ireland's own business, is being remorselessly entangled by the Irish Government and the SDLP with Strand 2 (all Ireland) and Strand 3 (the two Governments). That is probably why the Irish Government have said nothing for many months about their own commitment to take Articles 2 and 3 out of their constitution and give up their so-called constitutional claim to the Six Counties. I respect the position taken up by the Taoiseach, but the Irish Government, I fear, represent an Achilles' heel in our struggle with the IRA.

    And since it must follow as the night follows day, that should we reach the stage of joint party talks with Sinn Fein at the table (which, as we have heard, can happen only if the IRA resumes its ceasefire for good and does something about decommissioning) even then, it seems in the highest degree unlikely that the IRA will achieve its political aim of a united Ireland by democratic means through the ballot box. So, finally, that is why we must keep our guard up and why the Irish Government have probably never relinquished their own emergency powers, including their own version of the Diplock courts.

    Let me end by saying that, though the talks may be destroyed by Sinn Fein/IRA, I believe, along with the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, that the grass-roots in Northern Ireland have been growing fast and growing together. They may yet succeed in finding a settlement; but it will be in spite of, not because of, the IRA.

    5.28 p.m.

    My Lords, I should like, first, to welcome my noble friend Lord Glentoran and congratulate him on a really excellent maiden speech. I look forward to hearing him speak often, especially on business topics. It is very good to have another Northern Ireland voice in your Lordships' House, even if it means that, for once, the Scots will have to wait, until we have finished, to discuss their wildlife.

    In support of the Bill, I do not intend to go through in detail what has happened during the past year, and more particularly since Christmas. Suffice to say that we now have all the proof that we needed, but did not actually want, that Sinn Fein/IRA will switch on and off their ceasefires to suit themselves when they please. To those who say that, given a ceasefire, we would no longer need such legislation, I would point out that during the 18 months of the ceasefire the security forces have shown how quickly they can adapt their operations to a period of reduced violence. They were commendable and professional in their performance. That showed that this legislation is only an infringement on people's freedom during periods of terrorist activity. The people of Northern Ireland require that protection; and they will require that protection regardless of whether we gain a so-called prolonged ceasefire. There is a big difference between a ceasefire and peace.

    Noble Lords should be aware of the feelings of horror and revulsion, and the sympathy for the victims felt by everyone outside Sinn Fein/IRA in Northern Ireland when they heard of the first bomb at Canary Wharf and the subsequent ones. I have never seen so many ordinary people so stunned in Northern Ireland. For days they were simply horrified. Not only did they feel sympathy for the people of Canary Wharf and others, but, although everyone said that such an event might occur, they honestly did not believe that it could. Ordinary families are yet again worried about the bomb and the bullet.

    Perhaps I may address two of the changes in the Bill: first, the video recording of interviews; and, secondly, the removal of provisions for countering terrorist finance. There are strong arguments against video recording; and we have heard some strong arguments for it. Those arguments have been well adduced in previous debates both in your Lordships' House and in another place. I shall not insult your Lordships' ability to read by taking half an hour to wade through them as did another place. However, I hope that this change in the legislation will not be detrimental to intelligence gathering. Let us remember that 80 per cent., or four out of five, of all planned terrorist operations did not take place because of intelligence and/or security force activity.

    Who will have access to the video recordings? What happens when the defence calls for them? To whom will they be shown? What happens when evidence from an interview is used not against the person giving the evidence in the interview but against another defendant? What happens—I can assure noble Lords that it has occurred—if a person wishes to give information and does so by causing himself to be lifted so that he can be interviewed in order to supply that information? I do not suggest that the arguments against video recording should mean that recording does not take place. However, some measures have to be laid down in law, or at least in strong guidelines, as to the use of these videos because their use could become dangerous.

    The second item I wish to mention is the removal of provisions for countering terrorist finance from the EPA and transferring those powers to the Proceeds of Crime Order (Northern Ireland) which we have learnt will be brought forward after Easter. The important aspect is that by producing an order rather than having the provision in the Bill the Government are ensuring that the measures cannot be amended. It does not mean to say that they will not be amended, but by the time the order reaches this House and another place there will be no amendments to it. Can my noble friend reassure this House and the people of Northern Ireland that the provisions will be transferred complete? I hope that she will do so as they are extremely important in the fight against terrorist funding.

    In respect of these provisions, we should all understand what the IRA has been doing during the ceasefire apart from reorganising, bearing people up, developing new weapons—some quite sophisticated; I refer to mortars and such like—and intimidation. In addition, they have been running the largest organised crime syndicate outside Europe, perhaps outside the mafia. These terrorist finance provisions are vital in their entirety.

    It is worth looking at one of the factors which enabled the IRA to stay intact and prepared during the ceasefire to restart terrorism at a moment's notice.

    During the period between the Downing Street declaration and the ceasefire, the IRA reorganised their methods so that their terrorist financing of criminal activities could continue without the back-up of guns for intimidation. We all know that they then moved onto baseball bats and various other weapons.

    Since then their criminal activities in this direction have, if anything, increased. The Minister brought that out at the beginning of the debate. While members of the IRA no longer met each other to plan shooting and bombing incidents, they continued to meet to organise their everyday criminal activities and to discuss other things. If, however, they had ceased to operate in that way of their own accord, or if the security forces had managed to stop them, I believe that through lack of reasons to meet at a low level in their structure their cohesiveness might not have survived. It might have become all too pointless to have frequent meetings about very little. Had that occurred, a restart of terrorist operations after calling off the ceasefire would have been much more difficult and there would have been a severe lack of funds—as indeed there was at the time that the ceasefire was called.

    For that reason, we must not forget these terrorist financial provisions. We must insist that the Government carry them in totality into the new order. If anything, the Government should consider strengthening them. I know that the RUC and the security forces have been doing everything they can to wipe out terrorist-related crime. Sadly, even with all their efforts, they have not succeeded. If they had, it would have had a large bearing on the possible restart of terrorist violence.

    Lastly, perhaps I may make one comment on the review of the PTA and the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick. I look forward and earnestly hope that sooner rather than later there will be a single Act for the United Kingdom as a whole to cover the fight against terrorism from wherever it may come. The key to its success must be its acceptance in times of total peace and its ability to be of some use during a time of terrorist activity. Should there be an outbreak of terrorism, we must do away with timewasting re-enactments, amendments and arguments which prompt shouts from the ill-informed about infringement of civil liberties and human rights. Let it be a good Act, capable of remaining in place for a long period. I wish the noble and learned Lord success. Meanwhile I support the new Bill and look forward to its eventual replacement in a new climate of peace.

    5.38 p.m.

    My Lords, I support the Government as regards the Bill. I do so with a certain diffidence because I am an outsider. My only connection with the issue was in 1973 when, as a civil servant, I was not too far away from the bomb in Whitehall, and rather close to the later one in Brighton when I was a journalist.

    However, I believe that it is necessary for ordinary people in this country who are not directly connected—I see myself in that context—to support what I believe are the tremendous efforts of by our Prime Minister, John Major, the Taoiseach, Mr. Bruton, and President Clinton to deal with the problem. It is interesting to note that the Second Reading of the Bill in another place was on 9th January, a month before the breaking of the ceasefire. I read that debate carefully and it is interesting that the reasons given even then, when outsiders did not realise that the ceasefire was likely to be broken, were compelling. The situation has now greatly changed.

    Certain points need constantly to be emphasised which many people in this country do not understand. I am sure that your Lordships do, but I hope that I shall be forgiven for mentioning them. The first is the fact that Sinn Fein and the IRA are one and the same organisation. That can never be said too often. I recommend to noble Lords who have not read it a good analysis in the Sunday Times on 18th February in which some of the personalities are exposed. The article showed that the main negotiator for Sinn Fein, Mr. Martin McGuinness, was until 1991 the so-called chief of staff of the IRA army council. Another leading member of the Sinn Fein negotiating team, Gerry Kelly, is not a member of Sinn Fein but a so-called observer. He was given two life sentences for his part in the Old Bailey bombing of 1973. He escaped and was re-arrested in Holland and extradited, but the authorities were not allowed to return him to life imprisonment. He was given a five-year sentence and released. Those are the kinds of people who are playing Sinn Fein/IRA musical chairs.

    One must bear in mind that there are different components of Sinn Fein/IRA. There are some genuine nationalists and we can all salute and respect them. Then there are the old hat, highly political Marxists from the days when the group saw it as possible that one day there would be a united socialist Ireland. Gerry Adams was very much part of that tradition. I well remember as a journalist covering Labour Party conferences, going to meetings which were on the fringe and in which Gerry Adams took part: anyone who reads the text of his speeches then will know what motivates him.

    Then there is the most unpleasant lot, dangerous in a direct sense, the psychopaths who enjoy the process of killing and maiming. Every country has a few and if an organisation like Sinn Fein/IRA can recruit them they go to it like bees to honey. As my noble friend Lord Brookeborough said, the main group is the Mafia, the criminal element. It is interesting that my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland referred to them in his Second Reading speech on the Bill and to the robbery and extortion for the purpose of acquiring funds. He denounced the so-called Direct Action Against Drugs Group as a flag of convenience for the IRA. I suspect that it is probably closer to merely one Mafia gang battling with another for drug territory. I hope that it is understood in the United States that it is a quasi-Mafia organisation. We should underline our tribute to President Clinton who has been cruelly betrayed by the breaking of the ceasefire.

    I wish to raise some specific points. First, I ask my noble friend what arrangements were made when prisoners were prematurely released during the ceasefire, in terms of the possibility of recalling them? I see that my right honourable friend referred to changes to remission rates in prisons. That was before the ceasefire was broken. Can such people be recalled? Recently I asked a parliamentary Question for Written Answer about how many such prisoners there had been. I received a curious letter from the chief executive of the Northern Ireland Prison Service who said:
    "Since September 1994 more than 2000 prisoners have been released from prisons in Northern Ireland and the information you are seeking could be obtained only at disproportionate cost".
    In another context, I have been trying to obtain information on the extent to which computerisation of the administration of Her Majesty's prisons in the United Kingdom has progressed. It has made some progress in Britain, but it was remarkable to learn from that Written Answer that there is apparently no central record of who is in prison in Northern Ireland. That should be put right quickly. I should have expected something better than the statement that 2,000 prisoners had been released in answer to my Question. I cannot believe that they were all terrorists.

    I wish to say a word about the elections. My noble friend will be more aware than I that traditionally in areas where Sinn Fein/IRA exert control there has been much abuse in the past of the electoral system, with widespread multiple voting. I was recently told by someone involved in the 1980s that there were records of people voting 15 or 16 times. One cannot blame the people inside the polling station because they would have been too intimidated to challenge it. It is a similar situation to the Diplock courts which have been referred to. Perhaps we should consider, in the light of the election coming shortly, special measures to prevent that happening. For a long while I have thought that for many reasons we should have a proper system of national identity numbers, with or without identity cards. I am glad that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, is undertaking the inquiry into prevention of terrorism, and perhaps that is something which he could consider.

    There are two other points which may be regarded as presumptuous, but if I were living in Northern Ireland, I wonder what I would feel about it. Is there any reason why, for the crucial election, we could not introduce a simple system of the dye-marking of hands so that people could not indulge in multiple voting? Alternatively, would it be worth considering having neutral observers at the elections? I would favour them to be Americans because they have a crucial role to play in the peace process. Some people in Northern Ireland might say that that would be outrageous, but all I am concerned with is to try to find methods of, step by step, getting the peace process to work as effectively as possible.

    I believe that the people of Britain will welcome the Bill but they would complain if there were loopholes which could not be stopped up. They have been angered by the acts of terrorism and deeply saddened by the brutal results. They have no sympathy for Sinn Fein/IRA, but they would no more be intimidated by such actions than they would expect their government to be intimidated. I was glad that my noble friend Lord Cranborne made it clear that there is to be no compromise on the crucial matter of signing up to the Mitchell agreement and having a ceasefire before there is any question of Sinn Fein taking part in any talks.

    I believe that the legitimate nationalist aspirations of the population of Northern Ireland are already well represented in another place by the duly elected people from the various panties who really represent the population. We must strip away the idea that Sinn Fein is a political organisation. In particular, we must strip away any moral justification put forward from time to time. When the Pope visited Ireland some years ago, he encapsulated the deep truth in three words: "Murder is murder".

    If Sinn Fein/IRA fail, as I suspect they will, to meet the conditions necessary for them to take a further direct part in a democratic peace process, they will find themselves relegated to the status of a gang of organised crime and will be so treated by people in Northern Ireland, the Irish Republic, the United Kingdom as a whole and the United States. I strongly support the Government in bringing forward this legislation.

    5.50 p.m.

    My Lords, the ending of the IRA ceasefire and subsequent atrocities carried out in London have rightly cast their shadow over this debate. The people in Northern Ireland know only too well of the blight, suffering and pain caused by terrorism. This Bill, which is designed to re-enact the provisions of the current Act, will permit the RUC and the Army to hinder and frustrate the work of all those whose aim is to kill because they cannot get what they want through the ballot box. I thank the House for its support for that aim.

    In particular, I thank my noble friend Lord Glentoran. I congratulate him wholeheartedly on a splendid maiden speech. I can still recall the nervousness with which one approaches such an occasion. I particularly welcome another voice from the Province. I think noble Lords on the Benches opposite will share with me the warning that it will involve late hours. Today is most exceptional for Northern Ireland business. We are very pleased, indeed delighted, to hear my noble friend list some of the aspects of Northern Ireland that are to be praised. There is much there, and that is a message that we perhaps do not get across as often as we should. I agree wholeheartedly, too, with my noble friend's view that the terrorists are running out of support. The ceasefire was welcomed and treasured. Its loss has certainly left any credibility they had completely out of the window.

    I also support my noble friend's comments on the cross-Border activity that is happening, day in, day out, in business and education. I am sure that he will share my personal aim that the deficit in trade between north and south can be turned into a plus, and we are determined to do that. Although it may sound strange that I should want to talk myself out of a job, I also support wholeheartedly the delegation of powers. There is a democratic deficit in Northern Ireland. We all acknowledge it and wish that it were not so. I am pleased to say that, with the development of local economic development councils and associations, there is real evidence of the role that they can play, and do play, very constructively. I also praise the consultation in which they are involved. It goes deeper than anything that is possible from the centre. The House gives a very warm welcome to my noble friend Lord Glentoran.

    I thank the noble Lord, Lord Williams, for adding to my list of items considered better done in Northern Ireland. It gets longer, and I am delighted about that. I am always conscious that, were I to ask the noble Lord to dance, it would not be on legal territory. However, I will deal with his question. As he said, I have been given fair warning, over many months and now indeed years. I repeat: the Government believe that the innocent victims of violence in Northern Ireland are entitled to fair compensation paid within a reasonable time. That remains our policy. There are currently no firm plans to change the scheme in Northern Ireland. Given the noble Lord's interest, I assure him that he will probably be the first to know were they mooted.

    I fear that on the issues of audio-recording, the noble Lord and I must continue to disagree. The decision is based on advice taken from those with great knowledge of security matters in Northern Ireland. Given that advice, the Government have sought to achieve a balance which will provide additional protection for individuals and for the police, assist the efficiency of the courts, while at the same time not undermining the vital work of the police in obtaining information from interviews.

    Given the key role that the holding centres play in the fight against terrorism and the vital information which interviews there provide—not only in terms of bringing guilty people to justice, but in gaining information to forestall or disrupt terrorist operations and save lives—we have obviously to listen very seriously to the advice of the chief constable on the potential impact of audio-recording on police operations.

    Those interviewed in the holding centres know that the terrorist gangs outside will attempt to discover what has happened at the interview and will not hesitate to use any means in their power to obtain the recording of what was said. The effect on persons being interviewed would be to create fear, irrespective of the safeguards in place, that such tapes might fall into the wrong hands.

    The different circumstances that exist in Northern Ireland—the small size of the population; the extent of terrorist influence, which, as we heard too often this afternoon, has not gone away; and the vulnerability of individuals and their families in certain areas to attacks and intimidation—mean that the particular arrangements are required in the circumstances. I assure the noble Lord that we have given very careful consideration to the proposal by Sir Louis Blom-Cooper.

    The noble Lord, Lord Holme, very rightly praised the work of the committee in another place. The extensive scrutiny that it gave to the Bill has benefited it considerably. The noble Lord also praised the success of the loyalist paramilitaries in holding their ceasefire. I found it interesting that, during a recent visit to the United States, every Irish American was keen to tell me how well he or she knew the loyalist groups now. It is good that another voice is being heard.

    The noble Lord was concerned that SACHR was not consulted. I assure him that there has been no intention to deny the commission sufficient opportunity to present its views or to make sufficient representation on the emergency legislation. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State, who of course meets the chairman and members of the commission frequently, has written to them about their concerns. The Government value the views of the commission and the contribution it makes. I know that it will make considered representations to the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd, in the course of his review. In Northern Ireland, we look forward to the commission's review of the fair employment legislation, which is a very heavy task for it to take on.

    On the issue of the availability of legal advice in holding centres, I hear the noble Lord's comment that he may bring an amendment forward in Committee. The Government are committed to examining the judgments, and we shall ourselves be bringing forward views, though not in the course of this Bill.

    The noble Lord also raised the question of remand delays and time limits for persons in custody under the Bill. We envisage in the longer term statutory time limits, applying both to scheduled cases as provided for in this Bill and non-scheduled cases, for which further provision will be required in other legislation. But we do not believe that such limits can properly be introduced immediately. The criminal justice system must first deliver a more consistent performance. Otherwise, we should either set limits very high, or risk the release of potentially dangerous people. The problems are complex, and I shall be happy to set out more fully our approach to the question when the House considers Clauses 8 and 9 in Committee.

    The noble Lord also raised the matter of changing the authority from chief inspector to inspector. I assure him that this is simply a practical issue. There appear to be benefits in promotion in that chief inspectors do not have a continuous presence at police stations; whereas inspector grades work a 24-hour shift system. Mr. Rowe spelt out the disadvantages that can result, and the amendment will ensure that there will be no inadvertent delay preventing the RUC carrying out their duties. That is why the Government accepted Mr. Rowe's recommendations.

    The noble Lord, Lord McConnell, showed yet again how much experience and background he has of these situations in Northern Ireland. He well understands the implications of the matters we are bringing forward, and I am extremely grateful to him for identifying them to your Lordships' House.

    My noble friend Baroness Park of Monmouth again showed a great knowledge of the issues and rightly drew attention to the horrific total lack of knowledge which would lead to a comparison between Mr. Adams and Mr. Mandela. I am sure my noble friend would be delighted to know that there is much distancing going on in the United States from Mr. Adams, and certainly an increasingly critical media coverage of some of the statements, which in the past, outrageous though they were, had not been challenged.

    I am sure my noble friend will also be pleased to know that the Taoiseach identified very clearly that there is no diminishing of responsibility for the Canary Wharf bomb by discussion. The only people responsible were the members of the IRA council, and that was said loud and clear. Of course, the issues of the renunciations to constitutional claims made in the framework document continue to hold.

    My noble friend Lord Brookeborough raised the disbelief of people in Northern Ireland at the breakdown in the ceasefire. There was almost silence in the Province after that, as people failed to understand that the new and treasured peace had been broken. I would like to assure my noble friend that the concerns he raised on the protection of the silent video recordings are very much in the Government's mind. The precise arrangements for making tapes available will be set out in the codes of practice which will be published for consultation. We envisage that they will be made available to the court on request as needed, but, I can assure you, not without that protection.

    I would also offer assurance that measures to transfer the provisions in the Proceeds of Crime Order, which will be available to deal with terrorist finance, will be broadly similar to the provisions in the current Act. They will provide additional powers of investigation, capable of being used in all circumstances in which authorised investigator provisions can be used. In some respects the new provisions will he stronger. Financial investigators appointed under the Proceeds of Crime Order will be empowered to obtain information from banks, whereas an authorised investigator under the current EPA cannot. There are minor differences. Investigators will be appointed by the courts, not by the Secretary of State, but I would assure my noble friend and the House that there will be no weakening of the powers to deal with terrorist finance.

    My noble friend Lord Marlesford apologised for speaking as an outsider. I think that needs no apology whatsoever because, regrettably, people are at risk in Great Britain as they are in Northern Ireland. It would seem that innocence and total non-involvement in these matters are no protection. My noble friend was right to praise our three leaders. No Prime Minister has taken more risks for Northern Ireland than John Major.

    The bipartisan approach to the policy is also much welcomed in allowing us to go forward as hard as we can, and the Taoiseach and President Clinton made their absolute abhorrence of violence very clear in the recent Saint Patrick's Day celebrations. I say "day" with some hesitation because in America it seems to be Saint Patrick's week celebrations. They certainly lost no opportunity to make it absolutely certain where they, and I suspect the whole of America, stand.

    My noble friend raised the question of prisoners. Can I assure him that the Act gives the Secretary of State the power to suspend this scheme should circumstances require it. The matter remains under review and the legislation to suspend can quickly be brought before the House. The Act also gives the Secretary of State the power to recall any prisoners on licence who present a risk to the safety of the public or are likely to commit further serious offences.

    I will take up the question of his Written Answer and endeavour to make it more comprehensive. I share his view that the light-hearted comment that is sometimes made in Ireland, that one should vote early and vote often, is not a joke which can be admired, and I can assure him that much caution will be taken to ensure that there will be no duplication of votes.

    There are few things in politics which unite all politicians, but there is one subject in your Lordships' House on which I am absolutely certain we are all of one mind. It is that the terrorist will not win. If he renounces the gun and turns to the democratic path, with all that that entails, he may take his place at the negotiating table. That, I may suggest, would take more courage than some of the activities in which terrorists now indulge.

    We, as a government, and I am certain, as a House, will never permit the bomb and the bullet to take the place of the ballot box. This Bill gives the necessary powers to the police and the security forces for as long as they are needed to protect the public, while at the same time preserving people's individual rights. It is one that has served the people of Northern Ireland well through the darkest days and I thank your Lordships for your support this afternoon. I ask that this Bill be given a Second Reading.

    On Question, Bill read a second time and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

    Deer (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill Hl

    6.10 p.m.

    Report received.

    Clause 1 [ Constitution, functions and membership of Deer Commission for Scotland.]:

    moved Amendment No. 1:

    Page 1, line 16, after ("conservation,") insert ("humane,").

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, I start by declaring the same interests as I declared at our Committee proceedings and at Second Reading in that I own a deer forest in Scotland and I sit on the Stalking Committee of the British Field Sports Society.

    Together with Amendment No. 1, I would like to speak to Amendment No. 2 and Amendment No. 60 with which it is grouped. These amendments continue attempts to get the welfare of deer onto the face of the Bill, as a matter which the commission must respect as it goes about its duties. At the Committee stage we attempted to insert the welfare of deer among the main functions of the new commission. Now we are merely trying to suggest that any control of deer numbers must be humane, as per Amendment No. 1. The words "the welfare of deer" are now proposed under Amendment No. 2 for inclusion in the new commission's balancing duties, so that the commission in exercising its functions would have the duty:

    "to take such account as may be appropriate in the circumstances of—
    (a) the size and density of the deer population and its impact on the natural heritage",

    and it is here that we would insert under (b) "the welfare of deer".

    Then the clause would go on to read:

    "the needs of agriculture and forestry; and … the interests of owners and occupiers of land".

    Amendment No. 60 suggests a new definition for the meaning of the word "welfare" which may not yet be perfect but which attempts to meet the objections raised at Committee stage and made elsewhere since. Our suggested definition in Amendment No. 60 therefore is as follows:

    "'welfare' includes the concept that wild deer are living in a healthy condition within the carrying capacity of their normal range for the time of year in question, and that management to achieve this requires maintaining the herd at a number which does not exceed that carrying capacity, by means which should not cause unnecessary suffering and which include the use of firearms and ammunition as sanctioned by section 23A of this Act".

    As I understand the matter, the objections to including "welfare" on the face of the Bill are largely twofold. First, there is the fear that one day those who enjoy stalking may be prevented from shooting deer because the meaning of welfare may come to mean that. I trust that the amendment deals with that point. Secondly, there is the fear that welfare might prevent some of the more severe exercises to reduce deer numbers and therefore defeat what some people appear to think should be one of the main purposes of the Bill. I hope that Amendment No. 60, as worded, gives some comfort there too.

    I appreciate that it is possible to criticise the wording by saying, for example, that the wording—to quote the amendment—

    "deer … living in a healthy condition within the carrying capacity of their normal range"

    is not sufficiently tight legally. One could perhaps find a tighter or different formula. One could perhaps define a healthy herd as one which does not, on a three-year average, lose more than 10 per cent. of its beasts under 12 years of age through death in the late winter and early spring. One could perhaps stipulate that a healthy herd of hinds should not have more than, say, 20 per cent. of its number which have not calved in the previous year. Both those indications would suggest that there were too many deer for the carrying capacity of the range in question.

    I shall not weary the House further with such technical suggestions, which should in any case probably be encapsulated in guidelines issued by the future commission. I merely remind your Lordships that there was unanimity in our hearings in Edinburgh from all sides of the land use debate that the welfare of deer should be clearly stated as the duty of the new commission. I also remind your Lordships that there was similar unanimity in our Committee proceedings in the Moses Room on 4th March with, on that occasion, I regret to say, the dissent of my noble friend the Minister.

    In those circumstances, I hope that the Minister can be somewhat more accommodating today. I commend the amendments to your Lordships and beg to move.

    My Lords, I support Amendment No. 2. I am aware that the Minister has put forward an amendment which mentions the word "welfare of deer". I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, that it is essential that the words "welfare of deer" should appear at the beginning of the Bill. That then helps to govern everything else that is to be enacted in the Bill. I should very much like to support Amendment No. 2.

    6.15 p.m.

    My Lords, I too support this amendment. The red deer is our largest indigenous wild mammal. To my mind it is one of the noblest of animals. Why is it that every man's hand seeks to be against it?

    So far as I can see, this Bill is largely about killing deer. In fact the word "extermination" was originally in it. I am very glad to see that people are now talking about the welfare of the deer.

    My Lords, I was interested to receive a letter from the Scottish Landowners' Federation. Noble Lords will appreciate that that organisation does not simply involve people who own deer forests and that kind of thing. Many small landowners are involved as well as people who are closely concerned with the environmental movement and so on.

    On this subject, the federation said:
    "The welfare of deer is important. We think it is appropriate that the Deer Commission for Scotland should have some statutory duties relating to deer welfare".
    The federation then says what it thinks deer welfare means and goes on to say:
    "Having heard the Minister's reply at Committee stage to the debate on whether the Commission should have a duty to further the welfare of deer, we agree with the Minister that the Commission should not be given such a duty. We do think, however, that it would be very useful to include deer welfare in the balancing duties of the Commission in the proposed new Section 1(1)(a) of the principal Act. The Commission would therefore have a duty to take such account as may be appropriate in the circumstances of deer welfare".
    Those comments seem to me interesting in view of the speech made by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson. They relate to the same point. I should be interested to know whether my noble friend the Minister has anything to say on that matter.

    My Lords, I suppose that I should repeat the declaration of interest that I have made at every other stage of the Bill; namely, that my family owns a deer forest, although I do not have any direct financial interest in it. Also, perhaps I might mention, on the other side of the fence, as it were, that in another part of the country I own plantations which are now quite well grown. The contractors who put up the fences before we planted managed to fence in a buck and two does, and as a result I had very great difficulty in growing them in the first instance. Therefore, my interests are in two directions. Needless to say, as my name is on Amendment No. 2, I support it.

    My Lords, I too support the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, in the amendment, despite the fact that at Committee stage he accused me of not paying attention to what he said and not listening. Having been in the noble Lord's presence for four days, I can assure him that it is absolutely impossible not to hear him. I support him on this amendment.

    My Lords, it is nice to hear further unanimity around the House on this amendment. My noble friend Lord Pearson was a little unfair to me when he said that I was the only person in Committee to break the unanimity in that I acknowledged then—and I acknowledge now—that the sentiment behind the amendment tallies exactly with my own sentiments and with the policy that lies behind the Bill.

    I shall not repeat what I said in Committee. Noble Lords may read it all in Hansard. The point is that "welfare" appears throughout the 1959 Act and indeed in this Bill in specific provisions made, for instance, for night shooting and out of season shooting regarding the firearms with which one can take deer and so forth.

    I repeat the fact that welfare is a key element of our deer legislation. If it can be incorporated in such a way as to be consistent with the rest of the Bill, I shall be very pleased to accept it. Consequently, I have been looking very carefully to see whether a formula can be found to ensure that the commission can take into account welfare considerations across its range of functions, while not conflicting with the general functions that we lay upon it through this Bill.

    I wanted to hear the thoughts of noble Lords on this amendment and also to give my draftsman a little more time to work out suggestions regarding the inclusion of welfare in Clause 1. There will be serious legal difficulties if we get it wrong. Therefore, I hope that the amendment can be withdrawn on the basis that I shall bring forward an amendment on welfare at Third Reading.

    My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. I apologise if I was unfair in suggesting that he was not entirely with us in our unanimity in the Committee stage proceedings. On the other hand, what he has said tonight would not go far enough unless he agreed to bring forward at the next stage some version of the word "welfare" and the duty that the commission should have towards the welfare of deer.

    I apologise to the noble Earl, Lord Buchan, if he thought I was accusing him of not attending to what I may have been saying in Edinburgh. My suggestion was that he was not fully aware of the extent to which the committee discussed the question of tagging at that time. I repeat any apologies which may be in order.

    I thank all noble Lords who spoke in support of the amendment and I am sure that they join me in wishing my noble friend on the Front Bench every success in bringing forward at our next stage of the proceedings an amendment which will be acceptable to all sides of the land use and deer debate. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    [Amendment No. 2 not moved.]

    moved Amendment No. 3:

    Page 2, line 6, after ("total") insert ("of whom six shall form a quorum").

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, my noble friend the Minister may wish to add something to this amendment. It is a question of trying to get a quorum into the arrangements for the new commission whereby we are suggesting a minimum of six. Having read my noble friend's amendment, he may be about to suggest a minimum of five. I feel sure that we would welcome that. I beg to move.

    My Lords, I support the noble Lord, Lord. Pearson of Rannoch, in this amendment. Indeed, I thought we had agreed that our amendment would say "five". I shall be happy therefore to have the amendment withdrawn in favour of that of the noble Earl.

    My Lords, I intended to support the amendment because the commission contained representations from so many interests. On many occasions a quorum is often only three and that would not be acceptable. However, I am happy with the noble Earl's suggestion of five.

    My Lords, at the appropriate moment I intend to move Amendments. Nos. 74 and 75 which do exactly what noble Lords anticipate; that is, ensure that the minimum quorum is five. I would add that the commission may determine to have a quorum of a greater number than five if it so wished and that option will remain open to it. On that basis, I look forward to moving Amendments Nos. 74 and 75 and hope that Amendment No. 3 will be withdrawn.

    My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    moved Amendment No. 4:

    Page 2, line 6, after ("total,") insert ("with such knowledge or experience of deer,").

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 4 I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 5 to 10 and 12. I shall speak briefly in support of Amendment No. 5, tabled in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, when he moves it and I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 7 and 10 separately when I have concluded what I wish to say about the other amendments in the group.

    We come now to the composition of the new commission for which the Bill, as drafted, may hold a major change from what we have at the moment. It should be remembered that the 12 members of the present Red Deer Commission have to be appointed entirely from nominees of the various interested parties, apart from the chairman who is appointed by the Secretary of State.

    The present Act requires that the 12 other members shall be appointed, one from nominees of the Nature Conservancy Council—that probably means Scottish Natural Heritage nowadays; one from nominees of the Natural Environment Research Council; three from nominees from organisations which appear to the Secretary of State to represent the interests of owners of land used for agriculture or forestry; two from nominees of organisations which appear to represent the sporting interest in deer; three from nominees which represent the interests of farmers and crofters and two from nominees of such organisations that appear to the Secretary of State to represent the interests of hill sheep farmers. That makes 12 in total.

    It is generally accepted that this system has proved rather inflexible. It has not proved possible to appoint some good people to the commission because they were not nominated by one of the interests quoted. It may be generally accepted therefore that the Secretary of State needs more flexibility in making future appointments; but not the almost total flexibility envisaged by the Bill.

    My noble friend the Minister was good enough to guarantee in our Committee proceedings that at least one member should be someone who manages deer for sporting purposes. I hope therefore that he will not think me ungrateful if I say that some of us feel that the Secretary of State should be further constrained. Indeed, at our hearings in Edinburgh there was widespread, if not unanimous, support for the suggestion that the Bill should reflect a halfway house between inflexibility and flexibility of appointment. That is what the amendments attempt to achieve.

    Amendment No. 4 suggests that everyone on the new commission should have,

    "such knowledge or experience of deer",

    as the Secretary of State considers appropriate. I hope that that does not seem unreasonable when one considers that the commission will be dealing with matters wholly concerned with deer. That is its entire remit.

    Amendments Nos. 6, 8, 9 and 12 have the effect of obliging the Secretary of State to appoint at least three-quarters of the commission from people who appear to him to have knowledge or experience of one of the interests covered by Clause 1 (3)(3A)(a); that is to say, deer management which, under the Bill, is not necessarily the same as the sporting interest in deer. We therefore include that as a separate heading with Amendment No. 8.

    The other categories of interest which are included are,

    "agriculture (including crofting) (iii) forestry and woodland management; and (iv) the natural heritage".

    That would still leave one-quarter of the commission which the Secretary of State could appoint with a large degree of flexibility, constrained only by the suggestion under Amendment No. 4 that he should believe that they all have some knowledge or experience of deer. I accept that Amendment No. 4 may go a little too far; it may prevent the concept of the non-executive director or even perhaps two non-executive directors. I use that expression to describe someone who may be wise and generally knowledgeable in other fields and who could bring that authority to the commission. Nevertheless, I hope my noble friend will accept the amendment in the spirit in which it is offered.

    Amendments Nos. 7 and 10 are in a slightly different category but, as they are part of this group, I shall speak to them briefly. They are tabled to enable me to ask my noble friend the Minister whether we really want people on the commission who have knowledge "or" experience of the interests mentioned. Surely we want people on the commission with experience of these matters, for the simple reason that experience gives knowledge which will be of value in its deliberations. I am not sure that knowledge per se will be quite so helpful. I shall be grateful for my noble friend's view on that matter. I hope that people with only a theoretical knowledge of deer will be in a small minority and that my noble friend can reassure me on that point.

    I conclude by reminding your Lordships of how important it is that the interested parties in Scotland have confidence in the new commission. If all the various disparate interests which now bear upon deer in Scotland have confidence in the composition of the commission, it will find its remit very much easier to carry out. It is in that spirit that I have tabled the amendments. I beg to move.

    6.30 p.m.

    My Lords, I am very grateful to Lord Pearson of Rannoch, as my Amendment No. 5 was included in his group of amendments. I am most grateful to have his support.

    I want to give a slightly different view on the question of the balance of the commission. At present it appears that the deer commission tends to have a bias in favour of deer management or landowning interests. This can often be a conflicting interest with that of, for example, the crofting interest, and the crofting people are the people who have suggested that we put this amendment down. One group wish to control deer causing damage and the other wish to maintain deer for sport. Both of them are perfectly reasonable, but they can have conflicting objectives.

    At present, there are many who feel that estates routinely ignore the reports of damage by deer. For example—again, this is in the experience of the Crofters' Commission—following reports of damage by deer in North Uist over a period of more than 12 months, there was no action by the estate. It was only on the personal intervention of the Chairman of the Red Deer Commission that the estate could be persuaded to take action. In this instance the action of the chairman was very welcome, but there is no obligation on the Chairman of the Red Deer Commission to engage in such action. It is difficult to envisage a deer commission with a bias of interest in favour of deer management interests being at the forefront of pre-emptive control agreements. Yet, a better balance of representation on the commission would encourage and foster a sustainable approach to deer management, taking account of all factors, without there being a bias towards one set of interests over another.

    It would also allow the development of a proactive and pre-emptive approach to control agreements under Section 7 of the principal Act which, of course, is amended by Clause 5 of the present Bill.

    Overall, it would begin to move away from deer being the domain of the few, and would provide a forum for tackling problems that would have the confidence of all groups. In other words, a well balanced commission could talk and begin to understand and appreciate the other point of view rather better, perhaps, than a smaller one.

    A simple and practical suggestion is that it may be appropriate to look at Section 3A(a), and the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, referred to this. It lays down four distinct areas of interest, and with between nine and 12 persons on the commission, three representatives could be drawn from each interest group. That would be one way forward, but I am interested to hear from the Minister, who has gone a fair way with us so far, whether he is willing to insert this amendment in order to get a balance in the Deer Commission.

    My Lords, my noble friend has a point in his amendment. Like my noble friend Lady Carnegy, I also received a letter from the Scottish Landowners' Federation. On this particular point which is, perhaps, one that your Lordships ought to consider, it says:

    "As deer management comprises most or all of the Deer Commission's activity we do not think that 'deer management' should be one of four specific interests to be represented".
    That is a point, because deer management really goes right the way across the whole duties of the Red Deer Commission, and it is rather a vague phrase whereas it should be very specific. I would have thought that my noble friend's suggestion of the sporting interest being a specific representation is an important one because, at the end of the day, if this Bill does not have the confidence of those people who will actually have a direct management interest in the deer, then it is not likely to be the success that we would want it to be.

    My Lords, I would particularly like to support Amendment No. 6, which seeks to replace "may appoint any person who appears" with "shall appoint persons who appear". I am not English by birth, but my understanding of "may" is that it is a very vague request to the Secretary of State. It is important, if this Bill is going to be meaningful, that there are also duties laid on the Secretary of State. The word "shall" is more appropriate.

    My Lords, I apologise that the first time I did not declare an interest. In fact, I own a deer forest on the Island of Mull in the Hebrides. I am very glad to see that the sporting interests are going to be represented on this new commission, because something that has not really been brought home is that deer are an extremely valuable natural resource. They bring in a lot of foreign currency. Currently it costs around £250 to shoot a stag and around £60 to shoot a hind. If at all possible, they should be shot commercially rather than just culled out of hand.

    The noble Lord mentioned crofters. I know of a crofter who shot 17 beasts and just left them on the ground. As far as I could see, they were not doing any real damage, as he only had grass. That was a very considerable waste of a natural resource.

    My Lords, as this is my first intervention in this debate since Second Reading, I shall start by declaring the interest that I declared then, in that I own an estate in the Angus glens which, although not a traditional deer forest, winters large numbers of stags.

    I would like to make a few general comments about what I see as the key issue here. Much has been said on this subject throughout the passage of the Bill and it is clear that there still remains not a little gap between the Government and other noble Lords. As has been said many times already, the issue here is for the future, as we all have a great deal of confidence in the current chairman and his team. There remains a genuine concern, with the current wording of Clause 1, that those with the day to day management of deer on the ground—the owners and occupiers of the deer range—could be under-represented on the new commission.

    At Second Reading I had not seen this as a legitimate concern, but my views have hardened somewhat since then. I must confess that I was more than a little surprised by the number of different organisations who were called to give evidence, either in person or in writing, by the Select Committee in Edinburgh. I counted 22; there may have been more, all representing a legitimate involvement in deer management and having, in the words of the Bill, "knowledge or experience of deer management". I emphasise the word "or" here.

    Interestingly, of those organisations, only a quarter seemed directly to represent those people with a sporting interest in deer, although a number of others enjoy the economic benefits from sport. This alone raises concerns among deer managers about their future representation on the new commission.

    I know that the Association of Deer Management Groups and others believe that this is a real outstanding issue. Although I am broadly in favour of the amendments of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, I have some reservations about seeing the phrase, "the sporting interest in deer" on the face of the Bill. I would prefer a phrase such as, "economic interest in deer". My reservations spring partly from reasons that killing for sporting purposes is now somewhat controversial and may not have been something that would have concerned those who drafted the 1959 Act.

    Also, and this may be somewhat more controversial, as I said at Second Reading, there is a belief in certain quarters that those who have managed deer in the past only for sporting purposes may not have done a particularly good job. Nevertheless, the new commission, as other noble Lords have said, needs to bring with it as wide a range of interested parties as possible. It seems to me that there must exist a compromise position, although I am still undecided on this issue. I am therefore most interested to hear what my noble friend the Minister has to say.

    My Lords, I should like to back up what my noble friend Lord Woolton has said. He lives very close to where I live and he knows all about deer and I do not. He is right to recognise the need for balance on the commission. For that reason I see the merit in the amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, and I see why the crofters want to include such a provision in the Bill. At the same time, the sporting interest in deer is an enormous factor in the economy of the deer country in Scotland. Where I live it is very important indeed.

    The people whose main interest is tie economic side of the sporting interest need to have confidence in the commission. We have to look for balance. I have said before that the new body will probably not speak entirely according to the balance that is held. You do not want teams of people opposing each other on such a body. You want a blend of discussion over the whole subject. I am sure that that can be achieved without necessarily making sure that one group has more representatives than another.

    My Lords, we have just heard a very interesting suggestion from the noble Earl, Lord Woolton, and I shall be interested to hear what the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, thinks of it later on. I do not know whether I am right or wrong about this but I think I am right that under the Bill as presently worded, in Clause 1—in subsection (3A) of the 1959 Act—it will be quite possible for there to be no more than one member of the commission who had any knowledge or experience of deer management. I may be quite wrong about that—the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, will be able to tell me whether I am right or wrong—but if I am right that is one of the reasons why I support these amendments.

    My Lords, this is one of the most important parts of the Bill. I hope that through a combination of clarification and compromise we can achieve a Clause 1 which suits all interests.

    Perhaps I may start with the clarification. Amendment No.4, moved by my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch and spoken to by a number of noble Lords, proposes that members of the commission shall have such knowledge or experience of deer as the Secretary of State considers appropriate to represent the interests groups set out in Section 1(3A).

    Section 1(3A) already sets out that the Secretary of State may appoint persons with knowledge or experience of those areas of interest—here I stress the wording,
    "in so far as that matter may be affected by the Commission's exercise of their functions".
    Now the commission's exercise of its functions all relate to deer, so it follows that it is knowledge or experience of how deer matters affect those four interest groups that is relevant here. I would stress to the House that the point raised by the amendment is therefore already covered. There must be knowledge or experience of how deer affect the interest groups concerned. I would submit, therefore, that the amendment is unnecessary.

    The main aim, as noble Lords will know, of new Clause 1 on appointments is to ensure that future Secretaries of State have the flexibility they need to choose a commission which reflects a fair balance between the various interests in deer and also to choose the best candidates for the job, whoever they may be and whichever interest in rural land use issues they may have.

    Amendment No. 5, to which the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, spoke, sets out that the Secretary of State shall endeavour to establish a balance of interests between those appointed to the commission. Maintaining a balanced commission is indeed essential so that all those in Scotland who have an interest in deer can have confidence that the commission will take decisions which reflect a fair and balanced approach to the various issues raised. However, Amendment No. 5 is unnecessary. The appropriate balance is achieved by the stipulation of the four interest groups set out in Section 1(3A)(a), by the stipulated proportion of deer managers set out in paragraph (b) and by the Secretary of State's obligation to carry out consultation before making appointments. My lawyers advise me that to go further would effectively mean a reversion to the 1959 formula which, I think most of us agree, is too restrictive. I shall double check that advice but that was the initial advice I received when we considered the noble Lord's amendment.

    Amendment No. 6 is also unnecessary. Clause 1 as drafted has the effect already of replacing "may" with "shall". Moreover, the subsection would then become grammatically incorrect. The Secretary of State is already obliged by subsection (3) to appoint persons to represent the interests of the four categories mentioned in new subsection (3A). If we were to introduce the word "shall" instead of "may" to the beginning of subsection (3A) the Secretary of State would be obliged to appoint any person with the requisite qualities rather than those he considers most suited to the task from these four categories. In a sense "may" means "shall" because he has no surplus discretion in this area.

    Amendments Nos. 7 and 10 would remove knowledge of a relevant subject as a reason to justify an appointment to the commission. Amendment No. 7 proposes the removal of knowledge from the general provision on appointments. I am uneasy about the inflexibility that this implies. It must surely be open to the Secretary of State to appoint, for instance, academic people who might have in-depth interests but have no experience. Amendment No. 10, when taken in conjunction with the other proposed amendments, has the same effect of excluding persons with knowledge only from appointment, and I cannot accept that principle.

    Knowledge and experience are overlapping concepts and I believe that from a legal point of view it would be quite difficult to distinguish where knowledge stops and experience begins or where knowledge might be otherwise termed as experience. The flexibility of this part of the Bill is important. I do, however, understand the concerns over the distinction between knowledge and experience. Both may be equally valid depending on the circumstances. Our aim is that individual members of the commission should be able to contribute to the work of the commission and that collectively the commission has the necessary range of knowledge, expertise and experience.

    I turn to Amendment No. 9. I have said that it is important that the commission retains the confidence of those who have the general duty to take or kill deer on their land and therefore hold both the rights and the responsibilities of managing deer throughout the country. Only if these people can be confident that their interests are represented to a significant proportion on the commission will they be confident that the commission is acting in their best interests. It was for that reason that in Committee I moved an amendment to ensure that at least one-third of the commission have knowledge or experience of deer management.

    To make the issue even more clear I have decided to add a further stipulation to the effect that those chosen to represent the deer management category should be chosen from nominees of organisations representing deer managers. This will ensure that all those who manage deer on a day-to-day basis can have confidence that those chosen to represent them on the commission well understand the priorities and practices of all deer managers throughout the country. I shall be bringing forward an amendment at Third Reading to that effect.

    Amendment No. 8 dealt with the sporting interest in deer. I do not consider it necessary to include a separate category to represent that interest since we have already made it clear in an amendment moved in Committee that deer management includes sporting interests. I believe what is of much greater relevance is the undertaking that I have just given to noble Lords to bring forward an amendment at Third Reading whereby the deer management members of the commission will be nominees nominated by the deer management organisations. Therefore, the priorities of deer managers can only but be represented by that element.

    Perhaps I may make one quick comment on the suggestion made by my noble friend Lord Woolton about economic rather than sporting interests. I am happy to talk with my draftsman about such terminology, but I suspect that "economic interest" is even more difficult to define in that the taking of deer, for instance, which are perhaps damaging crops or trees, could in a sense be classed as taking deer for an economic interest. I suspect that it is rather a wide title to use in the Bill.

    I hope that through explaining some of the terminology in Clause 1; by promising to bring forward an amendment at Third Reading on that clause; and in quite genuinely looking at the debate we have had tonight on the various amendments moved as regards the appointments system that may give us further inspiration to bring forward further compromises on Clause 1, my noble friend will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

    My Lords, I am most grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I say to my noble friend Lord Woolton that I take the point that a sporting interest in deer is not all that popular in some quarters. But he is right when he says that I took what I said straight from the 1959 Act. I also have to say that I am not one of those who is ashamed of enjoying a sporting interest in deer. It is common agreement that a large number of deer has to be shot in Scotland and perhaps more than have been shot before. Personally, I have never understood why they should be shot by people who are not enjoying themselves as opposed to those who are. I hope that those comments will not be received as being too politically incorrect.

    I agree with many noble friend the Minister that the economic interest might also be difficult to define because there are a number of climbing and tourist organisations which enjoy the hills for other reasons and who also have a very powerful economic interest and effect on the economy, particularly of the Scottish Highlands.

    The noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, asked whether the Bill, as drafted, before the amendments which my noble friend the Minister proposed, would give only one deer manager on the new commission. My understanding is that at the moment it would give only one person with a sporting interest in deer because deer management includes the sporting interest.

    I come to the very gratifying remarks of my noble friend the Minister. I do not quite accept that the amendments, as drafted, would take us back to the 1959 position. I intended to have only three-quarters of the commission representing categories which the Secretary of State thought were already represented on the face of the Bill, and for the other quarter it would have been up to him in a way which the Bill requires for the whole commission.

    That being said, perhaps I may take it from my noble friend the Minister that one-third of the commission will be appointed from deer management organisations—that is to say, on nominations from them; and if I may take it that deer management organisations means principally such organisations as the Association of Deer Management Groups, then what he has said is very helpful. However, if deer management includes people who go around counting deer droppings in dense forests in order to work out how many deer there may be, and that sort of thing, then I have to say to my noble friend that I am not sure that his amendment will carry us much further forward.

    There does not appear to be anything else I can say at the moment unless my noble friend wishes to clarify the position as to what organisations will be consulted. For my own part I am perfectly happy to leave the matter there. I shall read what he has said in Hansard and possibly have further discussions with him at an early date before we move to the next stage of these deliberations.

    My Lords, with the leave of the House, it might help if I say that the aim behind the proposed amendment at Third Reading is that the Association of Deer Management Groups will be the nominating organisation. However, life is never so simple that that can be translated straightaway into the legal terminology required for the face of the Bill. So definitions and other considerations wi11 take place, but I shall liaise with my noble friend between now and Third Reading to make sure that we understand exactly what is happening.

    My Lords, I am very grateful to my noble friend. I look forward to those discussions. I hope the other interests which bear upon deer and which are on the face of the Bill, will be represented. Perhaps before we have our deliberations my noble friend will double check the legal advice which he received some time ago so that the anxieties, for instance, of the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, and others, can be met. With that stipulation I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    [Amendments Nos. 5 to 12 not moved.]

    Clause 2 [Appointment of panels]:

    moved Amendment No. 13:

    Page 2, line 43, leave out ("may") and insert ("shall").

    The noble Lady said: My Lords, at Committee stage the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, had tabled an identical amendment to Amendment No. 13 on the Marshalled List. But to the great disappointment of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, and myself, he did not move it. I do not know whether or not we could have moved it ourselves when our names were not to it; that is a detail I shall have to discover. Anyway, we have tabled the amendment again because it is really the other half of Amendment No. 14. Together they form a little package.

    The effect of these two amendments is to oblige the commission to seek the advice of interested persons with knowledge and experience of deer management, agriculture, including crofting; forestry and woodland management and the natural heritage, as well as that of any Tom, Dick or Harry they may think fit before appointing a panel.

    The importance of this is that if the panels are not composed of people with those kinds of knowledge and experience, the advice they are going to be able to give to the commission will not be worth having. While we are very glad that Amendment No. 89 of the noble Earl, Lord Lindsay, at Committee stage removed Section 6 powers from the panels, we are still of the view that perhaps the noble Earl is rather more starry-eyed over the possible future composition of the commission than we are and consequently of any appointments that it might make.

    I shall look forward with great interest to the amendments the noble Earl said he will bring in at Third Reading on the question of the composition of the commission because, perhaps, we shall be more in line by then. At Committee stage he said he would give further thought to the composition of the panels. I wonder whether he has had time to do so. I beg to move.

    My Lords, I support these amendments which also stand in my name. Once again, one is brought up against the importance of getting the composition of the commission right. If one succeeds in that, no doubt the commission will exercise its powers in the manner suggested by the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, but just in case it does not fully live up to expectations in that regard, I cannot help feeling that the amendments would be useful at the local level. Precisely the same philosophy applies to these amendments at the local level as applied to the amendments to Clause 1 that we have just debated but at the national level. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend the Minister will be able to accept them.

    7 p.m.

    My Lords, perhaps I should say a word since I did not move my identical amendments at an earlier stage. I imagine that both the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun, and the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, who served on the Committee will realise that there was some exhaustion at that point and that we wanted to speed up matters a little. I should be happy if the Minister could accept this amendment or at least find some words to meet its sentiments.

    My Lords, I have a confession for noble Lords, and especially for the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun. She and others gave me so many things to think about between Committee and Report that this matter received slightly less of my attention than did some other clauses.

    However, I should stress that I am sympathetic to what the amendments seek to achieve. It is important to remember that the commission itself is already balanced with appropriate representation from the main categories of interests. I hope that with the undertaking that I have given about tabling further amendments to Clause 1, some of your Lordships will feel that the commission will become even better balanced. It is that fully representative body which is to make decisions on the representation of local panels. With that in mind, I believe that the commission can be left to make balanced decisions on the appointment of panels. My concern is that in being too prescriptive we will make it more difficult for the commission to set up panels, should it wish to do so. As noble Lords will know, the local panel power has not been used since it was created in 1959.

    I want to retain flexibility for the Deer Commission for Scotland. I hope that the composition of the commission commands the confidence not only of noble Lords but of Scotland as a whole that it can be trusted to set up such a local panel. I remind noble Lords that the panel has advisory powers only. It cannot exercise delegated executive powers. A local panel would be set up only subject to permission from the Secretary of State.

    I shall now put this matter to the top of the list of those to be pondered between now and Third Reading, having realised that it occupied possibly the bottom place previously. With that undertaking and with possible further discussions with the noble Lady on whether the assurances that I have given tonight carry any weight, I hope that we can reach a decision about what to do on Third Reading.

    My Lords, the noble Earl is absolutely right and I am sure that we all agree that the composition of the commission is crucial. If the composition of the commission—I am sorry, but it is rather a tongue-twister—is right, everything else will fall into place. I look forward to hearing what the Minister may say on the subject on Third Reading. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    [Amendment No. 14 not moved.]

    Clause 3 [Particular powers of the Commission]:

    moved Amendment No. 15:

    Page 3, line 16, after ("the") insert ("welfare,").

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, with Clause 3 we come to a particular power of the commission. The clause states:

    "The Commission shall have power … to conduct … any experiment, trial or demonstration, relating to the conservation, control or sustainable management of deer, or to any other aspect of the Commission's functions".

    In Committee some of us were anxious to make sure that those experiments, trials or demonstrations could not take place without the consent and approval of the landowner in question. We have been reassured on that point. However, Amendment No. 15 would make it possible for the experiments, trials or demonstrations to relate to welfare, conservation, humane control or sustainable management of deer. We suggest that the two words "welfare" and "humane" should appear on the face of the Bill in this clause.

    I do not think that at the moment I can speak to Amendment No. 17 which stands in the name of my noble friend the Minister because, frankly, I do not really understand it. I note that it states that,

    "the Commission may exercise the powers conferred by subsection (1) … in relation to the general welfare of deer".

    I should have thought that it should state that the commission "must" exercise those powers. However, as I have not yet understood where subsection (1) occurs in the legislation, if your Lordships are agreeable, perhaps I may wait to hear my noble friend's explanation of that amendment before I comment on it. In the meantime, in moving Amendment No. 15, I am speaking also to Amendment No. 16 and am seeking include "welfare" and "humane control" in the experiments, trials or demonstrations which the commission shall have the power to conduct. I beg to move.

    My Lords, in responding to Amendment No. 15, which has been moved by my noble friend Lord Pearson, and to Amendment No. 16, to which he also spoke, I should like to refer also to my Amendment No. 17. For the avoidance of doubt, Amendment No. 17 will make it clear that the commission can use its research and advisory powers under Clause 3 for welfare purposes. That has the same effect as Amendment No. 15, which has been tabled by my noble friend Lord Pearson and the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend will be able to accept Amendment No. 17 in place of Amendments Nos. 15 and 16. The crucial point is that the amendment is drafted so as to remove any doubt and to allow explicitly for a whole range of welfare issues to be addressed through the powers and provisions of Clause 3.

    My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for that explanation. I accept it and beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    [Amendment No. 16 not moved.]

    moved Amendment No. 17:

    Page 3, line 18, at end insert—
    ("(2) For the avoidance of doubt, it is provided that the Commission may exercise the powers conferred by subsection (1) above in relation to the general welfare of deer, in so far as that matter is not otherwise included in their functions under this Act.".").

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Clause 4 [ Emergency powers of Commission to authorise killing of deer causing damage]:

    moved Amendment No. 18:

    Page 3, line 19, leave out ("authorise killing of") and insert ("deal with marauding").

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving Amendment No. 18, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 19, 21 and 56 which stand in my name. We now come to Clause 4, which used to be entitled "Marauding deer" but which is now unfortunately called "Emergency powers of Commission to authorise killing of deer causing damage". This is the clause which still causes some of us the most worry about the Bill. That worry occurs because of the immediacy of the powers that can be used and the fact that they can be used without any public inquiry and even, as I read it, without the agreement of the landowner or occupier in question.

    In Committee my noble friend gave us a new safeguard—that the emergency powers of Clause 4 could be used only if the commission was satisfied that none of its other powers was adequate to deal with whatever the situation was. That strikes some of us as perhaps not being much of a safeguard. We come back to the composition of the commission. If the commission is composed of sensible and honourable people who have the welfare of deer uppermost in their minds, together with their other balancing duties, the problem will not arise. But it seems to me that all they have to do—at least on the face of the Bill—is to say that there is not enough time for their other powers to deal with the situation in question. I take it that the other powers are mostly those written into Clause 5 which, in the absence of the agreement of the owner and occupier, give rise to a public inquiry. That takes a very long time.

    Although this is not the place to debate it now, I have noted with great satisfaction my noble friend's amendment (Amendment No. 29). I would have thought that if that amendment were to be inserted into this clause, as well as in Clause 5, it would be a great help.

    In attempting to define what marauding deer really are, I have tabled a new definition in Amendment No. 56. It reads as follows:

    "'marauding deer' means deer which are not being effectively controlled and are causing damage on land or which they are not normally established at the time of year in question".

    I have somewhat more confidence in that definition than the definition produced at Committee stage, because it is the definition which appears in the Government's Notes on Clauses on the Bill. I believe that it is also the definition that my noble friend used in the Committee proceedings. Therefore, some of us think it important to have that on the face of the Bill in the definitions, and that Clause 4 should be brought back to where it was before and refer firmly to "marauding deer".

    There is a feeling going around that the deer problem in the Highlands of Scotland is perhaps more urgent than it really is. I have had informal discussions with the Red Deer Commission since the Committee proceedings. I understand that at the moment the red deer population, where it is believed chat most of the problem has arisen, particularly with regard to the natural heritage in the Highlands of Scotlandߞthe regeneration of the Caledonian Forest and so onߞis steady. Based on the latest deer count in Caithness and Sutherland, the number is steady. In the east of Scotland, where most of the problem has arisen in the Angus glensߞdeer having moved east over the past few years, for reasons that nobody completely understandsߞit appears that over the past 12 months the voluntary control schemes, in collaboration with the deer management groups, have stabilised the numbers. In some areas in the east of Scotland the numbers are down. I gather that in West Invernesshire there has been a slight increase over the past six years in some areas, but that may be because sheep have been taken off the ground in question. Therefore, deer do better when sheep come off.

    The level of complaints appears to have fallen in recent years. The cull of hinds has clearly increased. For all of those reasons, I believe that the situation is under control. I believe that we should be careful before we sanction a clause that appears to contain draconian powers. I would be grateful if my noble friend could enlighten me as to the kind of area to which this clause might be applied. After all, the commission has merely to be satisfied that the deer are causing serious damage, whether directly or indirectly, to the natural heritage generally. It seems to me that that could cover a very large area of ground. There are later amendments to try to narrow the definition of "natural heritage", but the value of a deer forest depends on the number of stags that can be shot on it every year. I do not deny that some deer forests have too many of them. But if we have a clause that can in effect remove the possibility of an area of ground continuing to be a sporting estate, we have to look at it very carefully. I feel that these amendments will be very beneficial. I beg to move.

    7.15 p.m.

    My Lords, I acknowledge the importance that my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch attaches to Clause 4. It is an emphasis that we have taken into account. Clause 4 remains an important backstop power when emergency action needs to be taken and no other method of control is appropriate. To safeguard land management interests, we have built in a balancing duty in Clause 1 which the commission cannot ignore when it is relevant. Even assuming the worst, there are important safeguards in the general law, including judicial review, open to those who may be affected by the operation of an unreasonable commission, if a future Minister were so unwise as to appoint one.

    I am fully confident that these powers must be exercised responsibly. As I indicated on Second Reading, I have listened carefully to comments made by noble Lords and have been prepared to make adjustments to the Bill in Committee to meet the concerns expressed. In particular, I have added the important rider in new subsection (1) of Section 6, that this power can be used only when no other power of the commission is adequate to deal with the situation. That makes it crystal clear that this can only be an emergency power. I have also removed the original reference to "any land" to make certain that this power can be used only in locations where it is essential to take action in this way. If a draconian Secretary of State wants to ride roughshod over owners' rights then he will have to change the law. I remind my noble friend of the safeguards and guarantees in Section 6 of the 1959 Act. For instance, the owner, or person who has the right to take or kill deer on the land from which those deer come, must first be contacted by the commission and given the opportunity to solve the problem before the emergency powers in Section 6 of the 1959 Act can be triggered. There are two or three safeguards which involve efforts to contact owners, and so forth. The interests of the landowner are fully recognised.

    My noble friend made reference to Amendment No. 29. That government amendment will have a bearing on Clause 4. If he can be patient, I will be able to explain to him why a reference in Clause 5 can have a bearing on Clause 4. I hope that he will be able to take some comfort from that.

    I turn to Amendments Nos. 19 and 56. Some noble Lords have urged us to make this power expressly limited to use in the case of marauding deer only by including a specific reference to "marauding deer" in the text of the Bill. I explained in Committee that the term "marauding deer" was not included in the text of the 1959 Act because of real legal uncertainties as to what constituted "marauding" in each case. What constituted "marauding" to a farmer might be normal behaviour to a landowner or somebody with sporting rights. For example, a biologist might take a very different view as to what constituted a normal area in which deer might be established compared with a crofter.

    I have received clear legal advice that to include the term "marauding" on the face of the Bill, and to try to define it in respect of range, would lead to such legal uncertainties as to tie in knots a well-intentioned future commission.

    I am sympathetic to the anxieties that lie behind the amendments moved by my noble friend today and in Committee. I am conscious of the need to respond to the concern that the power should be used only where deer are causing serious damage or danger on land upon which they are not normally established, and where deer management measures are not normally taken. Such circumstances might occur while outwith the normal deer range where deer arrived suddenly in search of food in large numbers, within an enclosure from which deer are normally excluded by a deer-proof fence or where they are clearly not meant to he as in a farmer's inbye land or in a school playground. I shall therefore propose on Third Reading an amendment which, if any doubts remain among your Lordships about the effect of the provisions, should put them to rest.

    The assurances that I have given on the clause on successive occasions will, if we write them into Clause 4, give comfort to my noble friend and to others.

    I believe that my noble friend spoke also to Amendment No. 21. This further amendment raises the question of which land would be mentioned in a Section 6 authorisation issued by the commission.

    Under Section 6(2) of the 1959 Act, where the commission is satisfied that the deer which are causing the problem are coming from particular land, the commission shall, first, make a request to any person having the right to kill deer on that land to undertake the killing of the deer. Only if that person is unable or unwilling to comply with the request may the commission issue a Section 6 authorisation to follow and kill the deer.

    The protection is precisely that the authorised person can only follow and kill the deer on the land mentioned in the authorisation. Under Sections 6(5) and (6) the commission has to give notice to the owner of any land mentioned in the authorisation, or anyone likely to be on such land, of its intention to issue the authorisation. That is an additional safeguard.

    With the assurance I have given about our intention to bring forward an amendment on Third Reading properly to define the deer which could be the target of the Clause 4 powers, I hope that my noble friend will be able to withdraw the amendment.

    My Lords, I am grateful to hear from my noble friend that he intends to bring forward some further modification to the clause on Third Reading. The point that I put to him still stands. Although it is helpful to have the new paragraph (c) which my noble friend inserted in Committee, that the commission can only use the immediate powers of the clause when:

    "none of their other powers is adequate to deal with the situation",
    that does not get round the problem which I have raised of the commission saying that it does not have time to use the powers in Clause 5.

    I appreciate that it is difficult to define "marauding"; but we have a number of definitions in the Bill, one of which attempts the definition of the "natural heritage". If we can have a definition, of "natural heritage" on the face of the Bill, I should have thought that we would be able to have a definition of the word "maraud".

    As to Amendment No. 21, I have taken out the words that suggest the authorisation could mention almost any land, because that seems to allow the commission to authorise the deer to be killed where they are. In that case, we must be sure that they are marauding, and that they cannot be killed where they are normally established. What my noble friend has been saying is helpful and hopeful. I therefore hope that when we have our discussion we may be able to discuss what he is thinking of bringing forward on Third Reading. In the meantime, I have much pleasure in withdrawing the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    [Amendment No. 19 not moved..]

    moved Amendment No. 20:

    Page 3, line 29, leave out ("the natural heritage generally") and insert ("enclosed land of natural heritage value").

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, this group of amendments may well also become redundant in the light of what my noble friend the Minister has just said. They are an attempt to define the natural heritage within the powers of Clause 4, because although the interests which Clause 4 has been able to protect since 1959 are easy to understand—woodland, agricultural production, including any crops or foodstuffs, and injury to livestock, and so on—the definition of "natural heritage" is much more difficult to understand.

    There is in the Bill now an acceptable definition of "woodland", and most of what we are talking about, certainly in the Highlands of Scotland, under the heading of natural heritage would be covered by "woodland".

    It was after my noble friend the Minister was good enough to spare me a few minutes for a meeting since our Committee proceedings that I thought the definition of "natural heritage" could be more precise as to exactly what Clause 4 is aiming at. Therefore where we are invited to give the commission power over the "natural heritage generally", I have suggested:

    "enclosed land of natural heritage value".

    That would not be land which was necessarily enclosed against deer; it would be natural heritage which was enclosed for any purpose. However, as I say, if we can get the concept of marauding deer clearly understood within the terms of Clause 4, then these amendments become less important. I should like to hear what my noble friend has to say. I beg to move.

    My Lords, I can give my noble friend a simple and short answer. It is my hope that the amendment to Clause 4 that we shall bring forward on Third Reading may well satisfy his anxieties in this area. There may well be pressures on the natural heritage outwith an enclosed area. One thinks of grouse moors, and areas which are beyond the normal fringes of deer areas; but, because of specific weather conditions, large plantings, or enclosures, the deer are pushed into areas where they do not normally roam. In such circumstances, it will be important to protect something in an emergency, even if it was not fenced because it was not normally part of a deer range.

    I assure my noble friend that at the heart of Clause 4 is a proper definition of when the powers can be used. It is something that I hope to be able to deliver to noble Lords on Third Reading. I shall give my noble friend good notice of how we intend to draft the amendment.

    My Lords, before the Minister sits down, perhaps I may raise a point with him that was raised in Committee. It is the question of the erection of fences. We are aware that different interests are involved. I have a brief from the RSPB. I was surprised to see that the annual mortality rate of capercaillie killed by collisions was 32 per cent. That indicates that the fencing about which we are talking is a major cause of death. Forestry Commission research information has shown that where deer culling can be sustained in sufficient intensities and over sufficiently wide areas, it is possible to establish native pinewood without deer fencing. The Minister has offered to look at this whole question and I hope that he will take cognisance of the mortality rate of some birds, particularly capercaillie, in relation to fencing.

    7.30 p.m.

    My Lords, with regard to the statistic of 32 per cent., I believe that the mortalities have reduced considerably because the fencing has been modified and the position of the fencing has been changed. I still believe that the figures are relatively high, but not as high as those which the noble Lord is suggesting.

    My Lords, when the plantations mature, the Forestry Commission allows the fencing to fall down. The deer, naturally being forest animals, come into the forest, where they are promptly shot in large quantities by the Forestry Commission. In other words, it is shooting its neighbours' deer.

    My Lords, my noble friend Lord Courtown is on the verge of giving us a lecture about when one can and cannot speak on Report. He knows a great deal more about that than I do.

    All the points made by noble Lords about fences and capercaillie are taken on board. Our view is that it is not for Ministers, the Deer Commission or any other public agency to be prescriptive about where there should or should not be fences. Circumstances and conditions vary considerably in different areas. I understand that in some areas unfenced projects make a lot of sense, whereas in other areas fencing is required. However, as my noble friend Lord Peel implied, one needs the right sort of fencing to avoid mortalities. As I said, all the points made by noble Lords will be taken on board.

    My Lords, I apologise to the House. It was probably my fault that the batting order got confused because I offered to withdraw from the wicket before a number of other more skilful batsmen had had their turn.

    I am most grateful for what my noble friend said. All I can do at the moment is to await the outcome of what he is able to do about "marauding" and the "natural heritage" and the immediacy of the powers in Clause 4. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    [Amendment No. 21 not moved.]

    moved Amendment No. 22:

    Page 4, line 5, after ("instead") insert ("take and").

    The noble Earl said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 23, 27, 31, 32, 38 to 41, 49, 58, 61 to 70, 72, 73 and 76 to 78.

    Noble Lords may recall that we are preparing a consolidation Bill in parallel with the programme Bill. Consolidation of all the existing legislation will undoubtedly make it more user friendly for deer managers and others who have to deal with the law on a regular basis, not least your Lordships.

    In a strict consolidation exercise, the draftsman is limited in what he can do. He can modernise terms, correct obvious errors and improve layout, but he must adhere to the substance of the law as it stands. If the law is unsatisfactory or open to substantial doubt, the draftsman may simply have to reproduce those inadequacies or doubts in the consolidated Act.

    The main reason for proceeding with the consolidation exercise in parallel with the programme Bill is that substantial amendments to clarify the law can be incorporated in the programme Bill and then consolidated. So far, the amendments I have proposed that have arisen from the consolidation process have all been relatively minor.

    There is, however, one area of substantial doubt and uncertainty in the present legislation which has been brought to my attention. We can now take the opportunity to clear this up. This will, however, go beyond the scope of what is allowed on consolidation and will involve amendments in the programme Bill to clarify the law based on the Government's policy.

    The difficulty centres around the use of the word "take" which appears throughout the legislation usually in the phrase "take or kill". It may seem obvious at first reading that the term "take" offers some alternative to killing; for example, the taking of deer alive. However, when one looks in detail at the Act, this is not always so as the law stands at present.

    However, we know that from time to time persons who have the right to kill deer take the deer alive instead, usually with a view to selling the deer on. In terms of our policy, provided the animals are humanely treated, there seems to be no reason to object to this. The effect as regards, for example, damage to crops is the same—the deer are removed and prevented from causing further damage.

    Moreover, we know that the courts have interpreted the term "take" as meaning "take alive" with particular reference to Section 22 which deals with poaching. Under the circumstances, it is clear we will lose something from the legislation if we simply delete all uses of the word "take".

    I am therefore proposing that we standardise the language across the Act. In general, we will refer to rights to "take of kill" and taking will mean "taking alive". This will be consistent with the interpretation of the courts and with current practice. I beg to move.

    My Lords, I merely comment on this group of amendments that the taking of a live deer is not at all the same thing as shooting it dead with a modern rifle, when one bears in mind the welfare of the deer. Deer are extremely difficult to dart into a state of unconsciousness and when they are taken in the least bit violently, until they can be enclosed in the dark, they can he very uncomfortable and distressed, to the extent that they can die of distress quite easily.

    Therefore, all I would say to my noble friend is that, although I am sure that I am not able to stand up to the complexity of the draftsman and the consolidation of the Bill and this long string of amendments, the taking of wild deer is a matter which must be considered with great caution.

    My Lords, I assure my noble friend that that is the intention of our policy. The animals must be humanely treated. It may well be that other deer management procedures not unrelated to the taking of live deer will be discussed later on other amendments and I shall be able to reassure him further on that point. I commend the amendment.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    moved Amendment No. 23:

    Page 4, leave out lines 8 to 10 and insert—
    (""(9) Where any deer has been killed or taken and removed from land under an authorisation granted by the Commission under this section the Commission shall have power to dispose of it by sale or otherwise.".").

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    moved Amendment No. 24:

    Page 4, line 10, at end insert—
    ("(10) This section may not be used by the Commission in any attempt to enhance the natural heritage without the agreement of the landowners in question.".").

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, again Amendment No. 24 may be rendered somewhat redundant if my noble friend can deliver on the purposes of Clause 4, especially as regards marauding deer and the natural heritage.

    The object of the exercise in Amendment No. 24 is to make sure that the powers of Clause 4 cannot be used to enhance the natural heritage without the agreement of the landowners in question. But I think that I should say no more about it now because I look forward with hope to my noble friend's Amendment No. 25 and, further, his Amendment No. 29 which appears to do for Clause 5 what this amendment is designed to do for Clause 4. I beg to move.

    My Lords, in responding to Amendment No. 24 moved by my noble friend Lord Pearson of Rannoch, I shall speak to government Amendments Nos. 25 and 29.

    I have made it clear in presenting the Bill that our intention is that the compulsory powers of the commission in Clause 4 and the latter part of Clause 5 could be used only as a last resort to protect the existing natural heritage against serious damage and that they could not be used to enhance the natural heritage; that is to say, to change its fundamental character.

    Following our discussion at Committee stage on the question of whether enhancement of the natural heritage could be pursued under the terms of the Bill, I asked my legal advisers to check again to ensure that the provisions of the Bill as they stand meet our intention. They have advised me that that is indeed the effect of the provisions as they stand.

    Moreover, they have raised some doubt as to whether the provisions of revised Section 7(1) in Clause 5 (on control agreements) could be used to bring about enhancement if that resulted in a fundamental change in the character of the land—such as, for example, upgrading moorland or scrubland.

    It was always our intention to allow such enhancement if the control measures required could proceed by voluntary agreement among the parties concerned. At least one of the existing voluntary control schemes being promoted by the commission is concerned, among other things, with the re-establishment of woodland. It seems to me important that, for the avoidance of doubt, we should ensure that such action can proceed where it is considered appropriate by the commission; and, indeed, where it is welcomed by the parties involved.

    As a consequence I am introducing Amendment No. 25 to make it clear that enhancement of this sort can proceed under Section 7(1) of the 1959 Act. The effect of the amendment will also be to reinforce the point that such enhancement cannot proceed under Clause 4 and the compulsory powers in Clause 5. As this amendment would not apply to those provisions, the legal effect is to create a clear implication that such fundamental change in the character of the land is excluded from them; in other words, it is excluded from Clause 4 and from the control orders in Clause 5.

    Amendment No. 29 delivers part of that purpose. It is necessary because the wording of Section 7(6) in Clause 5 contains specific mention of "control agreements" as preconditions for moving to control schemes. The effect of the second amendment will be to make it clear that control agreements which have enhancement as their object will not be capable of being transformed into control schemes.

    There is a well-established legal principle that when a qualifying provision is mentioned in one section, but not in another, it does not apply to the section where it is not mentioned. Consequently, there is no need to make any reference to Section 6 of the principal Act because the exclusion is already made. I hope, therefore, that my noble friend will feel able to withdraw Amendment No. 24 since the Government Amendments Nos. 25 and 29 will, I believe, answer the concerns expressed by him and, indeed, by the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun.

    My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for that response. From what I heard, I believe that the amendments do answer my concerns. However, if the effect of Amendment No. 29 in fact bites into Clause 4 of the Bill as proposed by Amendment No. 24, I do not really see why it should not also be put on the face of the Bill. But, that is something that my noble friend and I can perhaps discuss. In the meantime, I am happy to accept the legal position that my noble friend put forward.

    As I understand it, the effect of Amendment No. 29 would not allow the commission to enhance the natural heritage value by using the control scheme mechanism which is set out at the end of Clause 5; in other words, any such enhancement would have to come under a management agreement of some kind, presumably with Scottish Natural Heritage or, perhaps, the Deer Commission. I do not know. In any case, I believe that the following amendments will probably clarify the question of compensation and any payment for the enhancement and the change of use of the land in question. In view of the assurances made by my noble friend, I am happy to withdraw Amendment No. 24.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    7.45 p.m.

    Clause 5 [ Control agreements and control schemes]:

    moved Amendment No. 25:

    Page 4, line 34, at end insert—
    ("( ) For the purposes of subsection (1) above "the natural heritage" includes any alteration or enhancement of the natural heritage which is taking place, or is proposed to take place, either naturally or as a result of a change of use determined by the owner or occupier of the land in question; and "damage" shall be construed accordingly.").

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    My Lords, before I call Amendment No. 26, I should point out to your Lordships that there is an error in the amendment as set out in the Marshalled List in that the word "occupies" should be "occupiers".

    moved Amendment No. 26:

    Page 5, line 1, after ("measures;") insert—
    ("(cc) the compensation payable to the owners and or occupiers of the land in question;").

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, the amendment opens up for the first time the question of any compensation that might be paid when the provisions of Clause 5 are activated. I should point out that we have not tabled amendments for compensation for when the provisions of Clause 4 are activated because we assume that we will get those provisions right, and that they will not be able to be misused against deer which are not really marauding and damaging the natural heritage.

    Therefore, so far as I can see, the question of compensation or payment in return for a management agreement arises at present only in regard to Clause 5. Indeed, as I said when my noble friend moved the previous amendment, it seems to me that any management agreement would probably be struck with Scottish Natural Heritage and that a payment in return for a change of management, such as the removal of deer forest status from an area of ground, would be the subject of such a management agreement.

    However, I am not clear as to whether it is proposed that the Red Deer Commission might have the power to make such an agreement. My understanding at the moment is that its budget would probably not stretch to such largesse. I believe it is really Scottish Natural Heritage which one would see coming into play here. I tabled the amendments to find out from my noble friend the Minister whether or not the Government propose that any enhancement of the natural heritage under the Bill will be the subject of a management agreement and subject to compensation. I beg to move.

    My Lords, I am glad that my noble friend has moved the amendment because I believe it raises a number of rather important points. I am quite happy to admit that there are certain aspects of the Bill with which I am not yet fully familiar. However, if I fail to grasp an important point, I am sure that my noble friend on the Front Bench will put me right. It seems to me to be rather unjust at the very least if the Red Deer Commission is to have such powers to remove deer from a given piece of land without providing financial compensation to the owner. Indeed it is rather odd and would set up a precedent which I find rather disturbing. I accept that there are certain procedures through which the commission would have to go in order to exercise such powers; but, nevertheless, my interpretation of the Bill is that I believe such a position could arise.

    As has already been identified, red deer are, for all intents and purposes, a commercial crop. Red deer are not the only creatures which overgraze. We have plenty of examples in both England and Scotland where sheep have created considerable difficulties through overgrazing. But I know of no provisions where the Ministry can remove sheep. I realise that the Ministry has powers of cross-compliance to remove subsidies in cases where sheep overgraze, but there are no subsidies attached to deer.

    Non-compensation appears to go against the spirit of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. As I am sure noble Lords will know, under that legislation—it has worked extremely well—the old Nature Conservancy Council, now the Scottish Natural Heritage, would be obliged to enter into a management agreement with an owner or occupier if it wishes to see the habitat restored. Unless I have misinterpreted this section of the Bill, it seems to me that the Red Deer Commission would have powers to enter land to remove deer without compensating the landowner.

    If that is so, it is clearly a dangerous precedent. One could envisage a situation where Scottish Natural Heritage might say to the Red Deer Commission, "There is a problem of acute overgrazing on this land. You have the powers to remove and not compensate. We have not. Will you do the job for us?" If that is right—I look forward to hearing what my noble friend says—we have a very real problem.

    The financial importance of deer has already been touched upon. In many parts of the uplands of Scotland, the grouse population has declined to a point where a proper level of management cannot be sustained. The deer now provide such management. If the deer are to be threatened through removal without compensation, that management tier, which in many cases hangs on by its fingernails, may decline even faster. Many of the processes of management which are so important to deer—I refer to heather burning, and so on—may decline further. I look forward to hearing what my noble friend says on an important matter.

    My Lords, when speaking of enhancing the habitat, I daresay that we are thinking of re-establishing the Caledonian Forest which our ancestors destroyed. That is a laudable aim. To accomplish that, the deer should be fenced out rather than shot out of the area. Deer would have to continue to be shot out of the area. They would come naturally into that area because nature abhors a vacuum. The area to be enhanced would have to be heavily fenced and looked after otherwise it would just be scrub and couch grass. The area would have to be properly planted and managed.

    My Lords, perhaps I may say a few words about deer fencing and capercaillie. The noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, said earlier that there had been problems with capercaillie flying into deer fences and being killed. Much depends on two things. The first is where you put the deer fences. If you put them straight through or alongside the leks, the capercaillie will fly into them. If chicken wire fences are used, the chances are that the capercaillie will be temporarily stunned but they will not be killed. On the other hand, if you use chain lock fences, the capercaillie will be killed because for them it is exactly like flying into a brick wall.

    In a number of places, the reason that capercaillie have declined and vanished is nothing to do with fences but with vermin, and foxes in particular.

    My Lords, perhaps I may briefly support my noble friend Lord Pearson and say how much I endorse what my noble friend Lord Peel said about the importance of compensation.

    As I am sure my noble friend on the Front Bench is aware, the economy of the upper parts of Scotland which my noble friend described is never as secure as it should be. There are many reasons for that, some of which my noble friend touched on. However, if what appears to be possible under this Bill were to take place in the way described, a large economic burden would fall on the shoulders of those who would otherwise have the benefit of the crop, as my noble friend Lord Peel described it. Therefore, it is essential that my noble friend clearly addresses the issue; otherwise the already fairly difficult situation could be made almost intolerable.

    My Lords, Amendments Nos. 26 and 28 have generated some important and useful debates. I listened carefully to the points made. I fully understand the issues which noble Lords have illustrated.

    Perhaps I may stress two or three points before dealing with the text of the amendments. First, there is a clear distinction—it is made clearer with government Amendments Nos. 25 and 29—between enhancement and protection against serious damage. It is important also to point out that we are excluding enhancement as an objective from any of the compulsory measures available to the commission. They cannot be used to enhance the habitat. The management agreements flagged in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 deal with enhancement and improvement. That is where compensation is quite rightly paid to owners.

    Secondly, I promised to bring forward an amendment at Third Reading to make it obvious that Clause 4 powers are activated only in circumstances where the deer involved are out of control, are not normally resident on that ground and are not subject normally to deer management measures. I hope to establish beyond doubt when those Clause 4 powers can be used. The distinction between serious damage and enhancement is critical in understanding the issue of compensation. In that sense, the approach taken by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, is in some senses against the basic principles on which the Deer Commission operates and on which the Bill is based.

    It has always been clearly established that both the benefits and the costs of deer management should fall on those with the right to shoot deer on their land. The Deer Commission is not a grant-giving body, and nothing in the Bill or in these amendments would change that.

    In preparing the Bill, my officials met representatives of the Scottish Landowners' Federation and the Association of Deer Management Groups to clarify the position on compensation. Those bodies accepted that compensation for the simple act of protecting existing features against serious deer damage was not appropriate. The distinction was made then and we will continue to reinforce it, that protecting against serious damage is not and cannot be an excuse for projects which are designed to enhance the landscape or change land use.

    The SLF and the ADMG also accepted that compensation was not suitable for a control agreement where deer control measures are agreed between the relevant parties. However, they believed that if enhancement of the natural heritage was to be the result of compulsory deer control measures, then compensation should be payable. We have made it clear in Amendments Nos. 25 and 29 that such enhancement is not possible under compulsory measures, under either Section 6 or Section 7 of the 1959 Act. Therefore, there is no case for compensation to be paid in that way.

    We wish to see enhancement of the natural heritage and woodland in certain areas but only with the agreement of the parties concerned. SNH and the Forestry Authority are willing to support enhancement measures through management agreements and forestry measures such as the new native pinewoods scheme. The Deer Commission will be able to use its powers to support such measures only by agreement with the landowners concerned.

    In preparing the Bill, my department prepared a compliance costs assessment in keeping with the Government's deregulation initiative. That was prepared in consultation with deer managers and their representatives. It showed that for the most part the Bill would impose no extra costs, but in exceptional circumstances, under control schemes, estates might be faced with extra costs of up to £11,000 over three years. Any impact on the capital value of estates was omitted from the calculations, with the agreement of the SLF and the ADMG, on the grounds that the simple act of protection should not affect the capital value of the estate.

    The distinction to which I draw noble Lords' attention is the fact that there is a clear difference between protection against serious damage and enhancement. Enhancement through the voluntary control agreements will often attract compensation or the funds which act as an incentive and which can be paid by the Forestry Commission or Scottish Natural Heritage.

    I shall be speaking to my noble friend Lord Pearson before Third Reading about various matters and I suggest that we put this on the agenda so that if there is serious doubt remaining on where and when money is made available, we can clear it up in sufficient time to address the issue at Third Reading.

    8 p.m.

    My Lords, with the leave of the House and before my noble friend sits down, is he able to answer the question of who will define "serious deer damage"? Is that a task for the Red Deer Commission itself or for Scottish Natural Heritage?

    My Lords, the definition would be primarily for the commission, in the light of the balance of interests on the commission. I hope that by the time the Bill leaves this House the commission will command your Lordships' confidence. It may wish to take on board advice, possibly from Scottish Natural Heritage. A decision has been made that Scottish Natural Heritage should not be the statutory adviser to the commission, in case there were circumstances where SNH was not the appropriate body to use for such advice.

    My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. On his last point, I repeat that the difference between "damage" and "serious damage" must be in the eye of the beholder. On this occasion, the beholder will be the Red Deer Commission. I was also grateful to hear my noble friend say that the capital value of the estates in question would not be put at risk by this clause without compensation being agreed, if not by the Red Deer Commission then by SNH or the Forestry Authority.

    My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should explain that the SLF and the ADMG agreed that the compulsory powers which might be employed under Clause 4 or the end of Clause 5 simply protect that land against serious damage and should not affect the capital value of the estate. The way my noble friend summarised what I said was different.

    My Lords, I hope that my noble friend does not think I am trying to pick him up on what he says. I would certainly not accuse him of trying to pick me up. I accept that often deer can be reduced on an area, to the benefit of the interests mentioned in the Bill. I accept that the capital value of the estate may not be affected because if there are too many deer and you shoot quite a lot of them, their breeding rate goes up and quality can improve. I accept that. However, I have to disagree with the Association of Deer Management Groups and the Scottish Landowners' Federation if the clause could be used in such a way as to reduce the deer population to a level where the land in question no longer had the sporting value of the deer forest or whatever it was before. In those circumstances, I imagine that the matter of a management agreement of some kind would come in with Scottish Natural Heritage.

    My Lords, with the leave of the House, if what had been a deer estate supporting a certain established number of deer were transformed through the compulsory powers to a different type of estate altogether, supporting half the number of deer, I do not believe that the means for accomplishing that could possibly be the compulsory powers in the Bill, from the way they are phrased. The compulsory powers cannot be employed to change an existing situation or continuing damage; they can be employed to prevent sudden serious damage.

    My Lords, the word "sudden" is very important. On that basis, I am happy to accept what my noble friend said. I and, I am sure, other noble Lords will read it carefully in Hansard. I am grateful to my noble friends Lord Peel and Lord Glenarthur for supporting me. I am particularly grateful to my noble friend Lord Peel for bringing sheep back into our discussions, even briefly. I should confirm that in the regions of Tayside, Highland and Angus, at the moment there are 3 million heavily subsidised sheep eating at least six times as much as the 250,000 red deer which are principally the object of our discussion on this clause. With that comment, which is perhaps slightly off the centre of the amendments, I beg leave to withdraw Amendment No. 26.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    moved Amendment No. 27:

    Page 5, line 16, after first ("or") insert ("taken and").

    The noble Earl said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment when I moved Amendment No. 22. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    [ Amendment No. 28 not moved.]

    moved Amendment No. 29:

    Page 6, line 3, at end insert—
    ("() Subsection (6) above does not apply in relation to any control agreement proposed or entered into for the purpose of altering or enhancing the natural heritage.").

    The noble Earl said: My Lords, I spoke to this important amendment when I moved Amendment No. 25. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    moved Amendment No. 30:

    After Clause 5, insert the following new clause—
    (" . Where there is exclusion of deer from their natural habitat due to enclosure of land previously unenclosed, the owner or occupier of that land shall take action to reduce the deer population accordingly.").

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, the principle of this amendment was introduced in Committee on 6th March under Amendment No. 37. It received considerable support and sympathy. My initial concern was related to the increasing activities of forestry, but I feel that it is a principle that should apply across all instances where there is exclusion of deer from their natural habitat. I understand that the Government seek to establish powers for the Forestry Commission to refuse public support until such action is taken. While that power would be welcome, I feel that it is more appropriate to seek inclusion of this principle within the Bill. One can envisage other scenarios in the future such as super-quarries—which are certainly a topical issue in certain parts of northern Scotland—which would deprive deer of their habitat but where the Forestry Commission would have no jurisdiction. Thus, it is important to safeguard the natural heritage, deer welfare and agricultural interests. If the Forestry Commission has no power to do that, we should include a provision in deer legislation.

    Furthermore, given that deer roam from mountain to glen there are situations where the enclosure of land will not immediately exclude deer, as they are not there at that particular time. However, that does not mean that there will not be an imbalance and potential pressure on grazing and welfare problems at a later stage in the year, particularly in the winter. By placing this amendment within Clause 5 on control agreements, it would be possible to put the onus on the commission to assess the impact of the enclosure on deer populations. Further, it places an onus on it to take forward a control agreement with other parties to reduce the deer population accordingly. I beg to move.

    My Lords, I should just briefly like to support this amendment, as I did in our Committee proceedings. It seems absolutely reasonable that if land that was open to the deer as their natural habitat becomes enclosed for other purposes, whoever is in charge of that operation ought to have the responsibility of reducing the number of deer.

    I feel sure that, as the deer management groups and the Deer Commission become ever more professional in their knowledge of the numbers of deer that we have and where they move—and, as I hope, if my tagging amendment is accepted later on about the numbers of deer that we are actually killing every year—they should be able to form a good judgment as to the numbers of deer which ought to be excluded in the circumstances envisaged by this amendment.

    I would just mention, too, that one of the problems in recent years of the deer population expanding is precisely that large areas have been enclosed for forestry. The deer on the whole have been driven out and have sometimes gone on to do damage elsewhere.

    That is a situation which is now coming under control, and I feel sure that this amendment is in the spirit of that improving position. I support the amendment.

    My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, for moving this amendment, the principle of which we fully support, as I stated in Committee.

    It is a truism of the problems that face deer managers in Scotland today that the range over which deer are allowed is ever changing. I remember it was a point made by my noble friend Lord Woolton at Second Reading.

    Our hope was to find the easiest way of achieving the objective of this amendment. Our position is that there is no need to change the legislation in order to achieve what the noble Lord's amendment seeks. We have decided that the Forestry Authority, on deer culling measures required before enclosure, will henceforth adapt its procedures to make compliance with Deer Commission advice a precondition of approval of woodland grant scheme applications. Such a change can be made by administrative means, and no amendment to this Bill is therefore required.

    Applicants will be expected to carry out all pre-enclosure control measures prescribed by the Deer Commission on their land before an application is finally approved. In order to match the migratory patterns of deer, control measures required should be taken at the time of year when the deer are present on the land in question.

    If necessary, the Deer Commission may be prepared to promote a voluntary control agreement, as provided for by Clause 5 of the Bill, to allow action to be taken in the most effective manner and, if necessary, provide for the interests of neighbouring land managers to be taken into account.

    The effects of this change may, in certain circumstances, mean that woodland establishment is delayed by a short period to allow deer control to proceed. However, such minor delays as may occur will be more than compensated for by the confidence this change will create that the knock-on effects of enclosure have been anticipated before the work takes place; and that as a result no restorative action needs to be taken subsequently when the deer have been displaced.

    I am grateful that, both at the Committee stage and today, the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael, raised this issue. It has prompted us to amend the arrangements we have for woodland grant schemes where this issue is relevant.

    If substantial enclosure was taking place for a reason other than forestry, we would expect the Deer Commission to use its voluntary control agreement provisions and powers to promote such schemes to make similar arrangements to those I just outlined as being attached to woodland grant scheme applications.

    8.15 p.m.

    My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister. I am glad he included in the latter part of his remarks the reference that I had made to quarrying in parts of the Highlands. It appears that he has gone a long way to meet the desires of the Committee. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    Clause 6 [Deer killed under authority of Commission]:

    moved Amendments Nos. 31 and 32:

    Page 6, line 12, leave out ("the carcases of").
    Page 6, line 13, after ("deer") insert ("taken or").

    The noble Earl said: My Lords, I spoke to these amendments when moving Amendment No. 22. I beg to move them en bloc.

    On Question, amendments agreed to.

    Clause 7 [ Close seasons]:

    moved Amendment No. 33:

    Page 6, line 41, after ("person") insert ("knowingly").

    The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am embarrassed to inform the House that my noble friend Lord Glenarthur has just pointed out to me that perhaps this amendment is superfluous. It is designed to exonerate anyone who shoots a deer of the wrong sex for the time of year in question—in other words, out of season—from the penalties which are otherwise imposed. This, unfortunately, can be possible, usually by shooting a young stag without horns when one is trying to shoot hinds. I am told, although it is not within my experience, that people have even been known to shoot a hind when in fact they were supposed to be aiming at a stag. I hope that is an extremely rare event all over Scotland, but I believe it has been known. That is what this amendment was designed to do. But if my noble friend the Minister is going to tell me that it is irrelevant because the word "wilfully" exists in paragraph (b) of this clause, I accept that and apologise for wasting the time of the House.

    My Lords, I do not think that I can add to my noble friend's remarks, except to say that there is a real problem. Unfortunately, this sort of thing can happen. I have certainly known of it happening. However, I see that in subsection (1)(b) one has to,

    "wilfully kill or injure any deer".
    Therefore, if any accidental contravention took place, presumably that would be a reasonable excuse.

    My Lords, I am familiar with the circumstances that both noble Lords describe. Indeed, over the years I have witnessed the mistakes that can happen on the hills, especially in poor visibility.

    The problem I have with this amendment is more basic than that which both noble Lords mentioned. It is that the amendment goes against the basic principle of the criminal law; namely, that a person should be assumed to know what the law is. We cannot provide someone with a defence that they are ignorant of the law.

    One hopes, in this day and age, that enforcement of the law is proportionate to the circumstances in which the enforcer finds the person who may have transgressed. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend is not too worried at the possible consequences of the circumstances he describes.

    My Lords, I accept what my noble friend has said, but I disagree with him on one point. I do not think that one can rely on law enforcement and other agencies not, in some cases, to exaggerate the law. If one were the owner of an abattoir one might not feel exactly like that as regards the way in which the meat hygiene regulations have been enforced. However, that is not the purpose of this amendment and I beg leave to withdraw it.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    moved Amendment No. 34:

    After Clause 7, insert the following new clause—
    (". For section 25 of the principal Act (unlawful possession of deer and firearms) there shall be substituted the following sections—
    "Illegal possession of deer.
    25.—(1) A person who is in possession of a deer or of firearms or ammunition in circumstances which make it reasonable to infer that—
  • (a) he obtained the deer by committing a relevant offence; or
  • (b) he had used the firearm or ammunition for the purpose of committing a relevant offence; or
  • (c) he knew that—
  • (i) a relevant offence had been committed in relation to the deer; or
  • (ii) the firearm or ammunition had been used for the purpose of committing a relevant offence,
  • shall be guilty of an offence under this section and liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding 3 months or both, and to forfeiture of any deer found in his possession.
    (2) It shall be a defence in proceedings for an offence under this section for the accused to show that no relevant offence had been committed, or that he had no reason to believe that such an offence had been committed.
    (3) For the purposes of this section a "relevant offence" is an offence under any of sections 21, 22, 23, 23A or 24 of this Act.
    (4) A person shall not be guilty of an offence under this section in respect of anything done in good faith, including conduct which would otherwise constitute a relevant offence in relation to any deer, where what is done is done for purposes connected with the prevention or detection of crime or the investigation or treatment of disease.
    (5) It shall be lawful to convict a person charged under this section on the evidence of one witness.
    Power of court in trial in one offence to convict of another.
    25AA. If, upon a trial for an offence under any of sections 21, 22, 23, 23A, 24 or 25 of this Act, or any rule of law relating to reset, the court is not satisfied that the accused is guilty of the offence charged but is guilty of another of those offences, it may acquit him of the offence charged but find him guilty of the other offence and he shall then be liable to the same punishment as for that other offence.".").

    The noble Earl said: My Lords, I appreciate many noble Lords are concerned about poaching and the illegal killing of deer. It is with that in mind that I am now proposing to bring forward a new offence to tighten the laws on poaching.

    Section 25 of the 1959 Act, as it was originally understood, allowed action to be taken against a person found in the possession of deer, firearms or ammunition where there were reasonable grounds for suspecting that the deer had been taken or killed unlawfully. The section was intended to address the difficulty of catching poachers at work. As an exception to normal Scottish criminal law, only one witness is needed, recognising that a policeman or gamekeeper in remote areas is likely to be unaccompanied.

    However, as a result of a ruling in the High Court appeal case in 1993 an accused can only be convicted under Section 25 if it is proved that he himself has committed the original poaching offence. This has consequently made it very difficult to obtain convictions under Section 25.

    To restore the law to the position as it was understood before 1993, I am proposing to introduce a revised Section 25 into the 1959 Act. In addition, a new section, also based on the salmon legislation, would allow conviction where the court was not satisfied that the accused is guilty of the offence charged, but is satisfied on the evidence led that he is guilty of another offence relating to the illegal taking or killing of deer.

    Amendments Nos. 51 and 71 are consequential amendments and therefore I beg to move Amendment No. 34.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    Clause 8 [ Authorisation by Commission of certain acts]:

    moved an Amendment No. 35:

    Page 7, line 11, after ("authorise") insert ("any").

    The noble Lady said: My Lords, I read carefully the noble Earl's answer to the various amendments that I moved at Committee stage. I note that his Amendments Nos. 42 and 44 make my Amendments Nos. 43 and 45 unnecessary. I prefer his amendments as they go further than mine. I was trying to compromise with the least I felt that might be acceptable to the Government, whereas the noble Earl is under no such constraints. Therefore I shall not move my amendments when the time comes.

    Amendments Nos. 35, 36, 37, 46 and 47 would not affect the workload of the hardworking commission, which I fear I maligned disgracefully at Committee stage, when I accused them of working a five-day week from 9 to 5, which is not at all the case. I understand they work a seven-day week and often all the hours there are. The amendments would give the commission the option of authorising the owner, rather than the occupier, should it appear to them sensible to do so, or possibly at the occupier's suggestion. I think this might often be the best course where red deer are concerned and an experienced stalker is at hand. I appreciate that where roe deer are concerned the situation would often be very different. I still consider that it is quite inequitable that an owner, or his representative, having a prior interest in the deer, and a major interest in the land, should not be eligible for such an authorisation.

    The noble Earl said at Committee stage that he was going to give the matter of owner versus occupier, with regard to out of season shooting, further consideration. I wonder if he has been able to do so and has reached any conclusions on the question. I beg to move.

    My Lords, in Committee a number of amendments were moved as regards this important area, and I am grateful to the noble Lady, Lady Saltoun of Abernethy, for coming back to the subject. I hope that in my explanation of the provisions of Section 6 of the 1959 Act, I demonstrated that, as far as this particular power is concerned, that point has already been addressed. The commission must first attempt to contact any person with the right to kill deer on the land from which the deer are coming and request that he take the necessary action. Only if such a request fails can the commission issue such an authorisation under the section. The commission must notify its intention to issue an authorisation to the owner of any land mentioned in it.

    I undertook to consider how best to address the notification of the owner in the other cases of commission authorisation: night shooting, use of vehicles, and out of season shooting. As I explained previously, I am reluctant to create additional administrative burdens on the hard worked commission, however I accept the desirability of keeping the owner of the land informed.

    To that end, I intend that the commission should revise its procedures on the granting of authorisations. Under the new procedures, the occupier will be required to notify the owner before applying for an authorisation. The occupier will certify on his application form that this has been done. This should achieve the desired end without creating additional work for the commission. It is not envisaged that this procedure will detract materially from the occupier's rights.

    I undertook to consider all the other aspects of this subject, and noble Lords will appreciate that the Bill as drafted allows authorisations for these activities to be issued to any fit and competent person nominated in writing by the occupier. Where the owner or his agent or employee has the consent of the occupier, there seems to be no reason why he should not be able to carry out the work.

    The priority of the occupier's interest is a standard theme running through the legislation at present, for example, Section 33(3)—out of season shooting on agricultural land and enclosed woodland—and Section 33(4) and (4A)—the existing night shooting provision. This is a feature of the legislation which I am reluctant to move away from without good reason, but I believe the very sensible adjustments made to procedures prior to authorisations will achieve much of what has concerned the noble Lady and others.

    On night shooting there is also the serious concern that we have about public safety if more than one person has direct access to the commission in order to apply for such authorisation.

    Turning to Amendments Nos. 42, 43, 44 and 45, it seems to me that the driving of deer for deer management purposes, is more likely to be undertaken by an owner, or group of owners, than by an occupier. The owner is normally the person with the right to take or kill deer and consequently is responsible for the overall management of the deer. For this reason, I am moving an amendment to revise this provision accordingly with the owner or his nominee being the person to whom authorisation would or could be given. As is the principle with other authorisations, the deer commission will expect an applicant to have notified the occupier, who would need to be aware for safety reasons that such work was to go ahead on his land.

    I am grateful to the noble Lady for focusing us on this issue. We have, I hope, both on the face of the Bill and away from the face of the Bill made some useful improvements.

    I now turn to Amendments Nos. 46 and 47. Noble Lords will note that authorised out of season shooting to protect unenclosed woodland or the natural heritage, all in the interests of public safety, has also been drafted so as to be a last resort power. In most cases I would expect the person actively managing the land in question to have the prime interest in the state of the flora and fauna and the woodland. Nevertheless, I recognise that there may be occasions when the owner may have the beneficial interests in the feature in question rather than the occupier. Consequently, I am prepared to introduce an amendment at Third Reading to allow either the occupier or the owner or their respective nominees to be authorised.

    In seeking an authorisation, the applicant will be expected to notify the respective owner or occupier before submitting the formal application. That is primarily driven by safety. On the basis of amendments that the Government are moving and hope to move, I hope that the noble Lady will feel able to withdraw her amendment.

    My Lords, I think I am quite happy with that explanation. I shall read very carefully what the noble Earl said and discuss the matter with my friends. Possibly, we could talk about it before Third Reading. Meanwhile, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

    Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

    [Amendments Nos. 36 and 37 not moved.]

    8.30 p.m.

    moved Amendment No. 38:

    Page 7, line 12, leave out ("shoot") and insert ("take or kill").

    The noble Earl said: My Lords, I spoke to Amendments Nos. 38 to 41 when moving Amendment No. 22. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    moved Amendment No. 39:

    Page 7, line 12, at end insert (", and to sell or otherwise dispose of,").

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    moved Amendments Nos. 40 and 41:

    Page 7, line 16, leave out ("shooting") and insert ("taking or killing").
    Page 7, line 19, leave out ("method") and insert ("means").

    On Question, amendments agreed to.

    moved Amendment No. 42:

    Page 7, line 22, leave out from beginning to ("subject") in line 23.

    The noble Earl said: My Lords, I have just spoken to this amendment. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    [ Amendment No. 43 not moved.]

    moved Amendment No. 44:

    Page 7, line 25, leave out ("occupier") and insert ("owner").

    The noble Earl said: My Lords, I spoke to this amendment when I moved Amendment No. 35. I beg to move.

    On Question, amendment agreed to.

    [ Amendments Nos. 45 to 48 not moved.]

    moved Amendment No. 49:

    Page 8, line 2, leave out ("method") and insert ("means").