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Lords Chamber

Volume 571: debated on Wednesday 1 May 1996

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House Of Lords

Wednesday, 1st May 1996.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Chester.

Japan: Sound Recordings Copyright

Whether they will request a timetable from the Japanese Government for implementing the full 50-year retroactive copyright protection for foreign sound recordings in line with the new World Trade Organisation/TRIP (trade related intellectual property) obligations.

My Lords, I am glad to say that the Japanese Government have assured us that they intend to modify their copyright legislation so as to provide the full 50-year copyright protection for sound recordings. The Government will continue to press for the early enactment of this legislation.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that mildly encouraging reply. At least it shows that the Japanese Government recognise that there is a problem. Will she go a little further and tell the House when she expects the Japanese Government to find the legislative time to change their laws?

My Lords, my noble friend is quite right: the change requires primary legislation. I do not think I gave a mildly encouraging reply. I thought that it was a rather nice reply. The timetable depends on when legislative time can be found. I understand that there is a possibility of a Bill being introduced this autumn if there is a special session of the Diet; otherwise it may have to wait until the next regular session of the Diet in early 1997. We shall continue to press the Japanese Government to introduce the legislation at the first possible opportunity.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that we need the money rather badly? On Monday, the Government reported that the trade gap for February was £1.5 billion, which was the largest monthly trade gap for six years. That payment from Japan to UK copyright holders would have made a very useful contribution to closing the gap. Does the noble Baroness agree that the Government should try yet harder?

My Lords, that was a very interesting version from the noble Lord opposite. I was very interested to hear it. As I said, the British Government are pressing the matter in every way that they can and the Japanese have assured us that they will act as soon as humanly possible.

My Lords, the point raised by the noble Lord is very important. Is my noble friend aware that music contributes about £500 million a year net to our balance of payments and so far the British recording companies have lost the greater part of 120 million US dollars to Japanese piracy? When the Japanese laws are changed, does she know whether there will be any provision for recompense to the British companies?

My Lords, my noble friend is correct: there is a lot of money involved and certainly the music industry should be a large earner for us. So far as concerns backdating compensation, that backdating protection is difficult both legally and practically. But we shall look for adequate assurances about material that is already on the market when the change comes into force.

Young Offender Institution, Colchester

2.44 p.m.

Whether they have consulted the Chief Inspector of Prisons about their plans to send a number of young offenders to the Royal Military Corrective Centre at Colchester.

My Lords, on 17th April my honourable friend the Minister of State announced our intention to establish a young offender institution at the military corrective training centre. Officials gave Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons a full briefing on that day and have offered further briefings, which we know he will find helpful.

My Lords, I did not hear perfectly that reply, no doubt because of my advancing years. I am bound to say that it seemed to me to evade the Question totally. The Question I asked was whether the chief inspector had been consulted about the move. I do not believe that that was answered. Let me put another question to the noble Baroness. Having been hospitably entertained at the place, more lavishly, I understand, than is possible in civilian establishments, I am full of admiration for what it is trying to do for young offenders. However, is the noble Baroness aware that the chief inspector of prisons has expressed grave doubts about the wisdom of sending young civilian offenders to a military set-up?

My Lords, I know that the noble Earl has spoken with the chief inspector. The chief inspector has said that he was not consulted before but did not expect to be. In fact, he has had very constructive meetings with my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and is satisfied that the programme that we have put in place for the young offenders is a very good one.

My Lords, I cannot accept that. He told me exactly the opposite.

My Lords, I do not feel that it would be appropriate or even dignified to engage in an argument about what the chief inspector said to the noble Earl or indeed what the chief inspector said to my right honourable friend. This morning I received a letter from the chief inspector in which he said:

"If a successful campaign can be mounted to make [young people] face up to and tackle their offending behaviour, then they may be persuaded away from a life of crime. If not, then, sadly, statistics show that far too many of them embark on a life of crime, including longer and longer sentences for much of their adult lives".
He goes on to say that he is very pleased to see that the Outward Bound element of what happens at the military corrective training centre is to be included in the pilot scheme.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the proposal is causing considerable anxiety in Colchester itself? Does she agree that there is a great deal of difference between maintaining military discipline and punishing civil guilt? Will my noble friend confirm that the staff of the centre—the so-called "boot camp"—will be different from the military staff? Will she undertake that within a year an independent report on the efficacy of the experiment will be undertaken and presented to Parliament so that it can be considered?

My Lords, it is not a boot camp in the way my noble friend thinks. The young military people there are military offenders. The young people with whom the young offenders will mix for vocational training and education are those who will be leaving the services and who are being prepared for civilian life. We believe it important to put some discipline into the lives of the 32 young people who will be at the centre in order to build up their self-confidence, to improve their self-esteem and to teach them practical skills which will be of value in improving their employability in the community following sentence. It is a pilot scheme; it will be fully evaluated and the evaluation will be made public.

My Lords, will the civilian detainees have access to a board of visitors?

My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that many of us view with horror the sending of young offenders to the terrible regime of the glasshouse? It is the wrong place for them. Have the Government learnt nothing at all from the failure of the short, sharp, shock experiment of the noble Viscount, Lord Whitelaw, in the early 1980s?

My Lords, perhaps I can also place on record that it is not a repeat of the short, sharp, shock treatment. The aims of the military corrective training centre are to provide moral and social training and a purpose for life, and to re-instil pride in oneself through hard work, practical training and the acquisition of employment and life skills. There will be drill and physical exercise and the young people will be required to keep themselves and their accommodation areas clean and tidy. The staff will work at building on strengths and tackling weaknesses. The training opportunities will include carpentry, painting and decorating, signwriting, bricklaying, car maintenance, glass cutting, farm work and work experience, including education in basic literacy and numeracy skills, if required, and more broader educational training.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the stringent rules against placing young people in custody are so great that only around 2 per cent. of young offenders are affected? Secondly, many of those young people have never received any form of discipline and never had regular meal times. The discipline they will receive will probably help to make them and is to be highly commended.

My Lords, the statistics quoted by my noble friend are absolutely right. Some of us believe that many young people have no structure in their lives, too much pent-up energy and no sense of moral or spiritual guidance. They have enjoyed no training or learning at mother's knee. The programme aimed at for those young people is absolutely right. The routine at the centre will be such that they will rise at 6 o'clock in the morning. During the course of the day they will enjoy breakfast, lunch, tea and supper. All other times will consist of inspection of their accommodation and themselves, parades, physical training, education and training or work experience. They will go back to their rooms at 8 o'clock in the evening and the lights will go out at 10. There will be a three-staged arrangement whereby they earn privileges through good behaviour.

My Lords, will the noble Baroness agree that one thing is certain—that those offenders who go through the course will emerge much physically fitter than when they entered? Have the Government considered the possibility that the regime as a whole may not cure them of their anti-social habits and lives expressed in burgarlies and so forth? The Government may be making future offenders much more physically fit and better able to carry out their "tasks".

My Lords, the noble Lord raises a most important point which allows me to say how the programme differs from the boot camps mentioned by my noble friend and the short, sharp, shock treatment mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Glenamara. The importance of the programme is that it will put structure and discipline into young people's lives. But it will also address their offending behaviour. There will be programmes especially designed to help them address their persistent offending—burglary or whatever—so that they come out fitter and with more structure and discipline in their lives and thereby, one hopes, make a contribution after their sentence. We have chosen a co-operative venture with the Ministry of Defence because the corrective centre at Colchester is highly successful in returning people either back into the service, so that they can make a better job of their lives in the service, or into the community so that they can make a more worthwhile contribution there.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that quite a few of us on this side of the House, although obviously not all of us, wholly support the experiment and think it entirely well founded? Can my noble friend expand upon the education facilities to which she referred—not the carpentry and the glass cutting, but the other facilities?

My Lords, it will take different forms. Each of the 32 young people will have a sentence programme which will address basic literacy and numeracy if that is appropriate and deal with other broader forms of education if that is appropriate. There will also be vocational training. They will have particular sessions which are designed specifically to address their offending behaviour.

My Lords, in an earlier reply the Minister referred to the experience of those who are already in, or have been at, the military corrective centre at Colchester. However, is she aware that Mr. Nicholas Soames courteously replied in October of last year to a letter from me about the outcome of this programme for service personnel and revealed that there was no monitoring of the two-thirds of offenders released into the community rather than back to their service? In other words, is it not the case that there is no evidence to support the ability of this regime to secure a successful return to civilian life and that the experiment is being carried out without even an attempt to secure evidence to justify it?

My Lords, I should like to think that the noble Lord would accept any pilot scheme aimed at addressing a problem that has eluded all governments—how we prevent the rate of re-offending, which is more than 50 per cent. in this country, whether people go into prison or go on young offenders' programmes, and do what we can to find a successful way of reforming their lives. We think it is a very good thing. We believe that there is evidence to show that people return to their communities and certainly back to service life. We shall include that kind of evaluation as part of the experiment. I hope the noble Lord welcomes that.

My Lords, what the Minister has just said is contradicted by a letter to me of 11th October last year. I shall make sure that she has a copy. There is no evidence as to the success or otherwise of those offenders who have been returned to civilian life.

My Lords, perhaps we should let the matter rest so far as that point is concerned. I defer to what the noble Lord says but I hope he will accept that this is a genuine attempt to address the persistent criminal behaviour of young people. We wish the experiment well, and we shall be looking for just such evidence as to what kind of contribution the young people make to their communities when they return to them.

My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that many of these young people offend because they do not have supportive families? Therefore, when they have served their sentence, they will be going back into a community which has not been supportive. Can she say whether support will be provided once they have served their sentences, and what kind of support it will be?

My Lords, the noble Countess makes an important point. It is probably right that we should put on record that many of these young people are as they are because they have not had guidance from their parents in their younger years. Many of the young people will leave this institution in their twenties. The whole point is to make them more self-sufficient. There are programmes in the community to help people when they return from young offender institutions. Where that is appropriate, I hope those will he in place.

South Lebanon

2.55 p.m.

What steps they are taking in the Security Council and elsewhere to achieve a long-term solution to the conflict in South Lebanon.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office
(Baroness Chalker of Wallasey)

My Lords, the United Kingdom co-sponsored Security Council Resolution 1052, which called for an immediate ceasefire in Lebanon. We warmly welcome the ceasefire agreement that was reached on 26th April. We believe that talks within the framework of the peace process present the best chance for a long-term solution to the conflict, and we shall continue to give our full support to that process.

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that reply, which is not specific but at least shows some grounds for hope. Does she agree that it is right to congratulate Mr. Warren Christopher on brokering the current ceasefire? On the other hand, is it not true that United States policy, and to some extent our own, with regard to the Israeli presence in South Lebanon has been inconsistent? While we have supported resolution after resolution (as has the United States) in the Security Council that Israel should withdraw from South Lebanon, nevertheless, like the United States, we have continued to supply military equipment, including, it is said, nuclear weapon components. Is it not time that we insist that Israel withdraws from South Lebanon and that, if necessary, as a safeguard we strengthen UNIFIL?

My Lords, we very much welcome the progress that has been made by the American Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, and by the efforts of the French Foreign Minister, M. Herve de Charette. We have been actively engaged throughout in efforts to end the fighting. The conclusions that the noble Lord tried to draw from his reading were themselves inconsistent. In all our dealings with the Lebanese and Syrian Governments, with the Israeli Government, with the Americans and with our European Union partners, the efforts to end the fighting have been unanimous. But as I said in answer to a Question in your Lordships' House last week, when faced with the problem of the Katyusha rockets into Israel there was bound to be a reaction. Anyone who thinks that Israel was not right to defend herself, even if some agree that she went over the top, is really living in Cloud-cuckoo-land. Of course a nation must be able to defend itself. That is the basis of Chapter 51 of the United Nations Charter. So we should not be surprised at United States policy; but ours is totally consistent and will remain so.

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that there will be no resolution of the whole problem so long as Iran continues, via Syria, to finance and arm the Hizbollah? Will Her Majesty's Government approach the Governments of Germany and France to try to persuade them to join other countries in exerting pressure on the Iranian regime?

My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right. Until the Hizbollah stop being armed by Iran or any other country there will not be any easy end to this process. But I know from our discussions that both the Lebanese and Syrian Governments are well aware of the disastrous potential that the arming of Hizbollah is causing. That is why they are working in the diplomatic effort to make sure that the ceasefire lasts.

My Lords, while I agree with the Minister that some Israeli reaction to the terrorist bombardment by Hizbollah was inevitable, does she not agree that the main outcome of the indiscriminate Israeli bombardment of Lebanese territory is to increase the people's support for Hizbollah and to undermine the United Nations' prohibition on military aggression against neighbouring states?

My Lords, one always understands that two wrongs never make a right and when it is a wrong in warfare, as this was, that is bound to lead to a polarisation of views, which is both unwise and unproductive. The noble Lord will know that a report is being made to the United Nations which will shortly be discussed in the Security Council and with the UNIFIL troop contributors. I hope that the Israeli Government will provide the Security Council with any evidence they have relating to this issue; that it can be resolved; and that no further attempt is made to resolve it by military might.

My Lords, perhaps I may pursue a little further one of the points made by my noble friend. Does the Minister agree that the only long-term solution to this conflict is the withdrawal of Israeli troops from southern Lebanon? Do the Government support the French initiative to obtain an undertaking from both Israel and Hizbollah that they will avoid targeting civilians with a view to getting the phased withdrawal of Israel from southern Lebanon back on to the agenda, with the possibility of a multilateral force in its place?

My Lords, I am quite certain that the efforts of M. Herve de Charette are very worth while, as I said in answer to an earlier question. I also believe that the Middle East peace process provides the best hope for a lasting peace and that the agreement reached on 26th April cannot be seen as a permanent solution to the problems of South Lebanon. Obviously, a permanent solution to the Middle East peace process will involve the withdrawal of all occupying forces. That is very necessary. In the meantime the requirement is always that the civilian populations are not targeted. The fact that they were has resulted in terrible tragedy in this case, as in so many others; but that is war.

My Lords, lest there should be any misunderstanding as a result of the exchanges in your Lordships' House, will the Minister make clear that, contrary to a suggestion made earlier by a noble Lord, there is no evidence whatsoever that the United States has supplied components for nuclear weapons to Israel? To me, that is a most extraordinary suggestion, and I hope that Her Majesty's Government can assure us that there is no evidence of that.

My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Chalfont, in every respect.

My Lords, I believe that we may want to get on.

Rail Privatisation: Concessionary Fares

3.3 p.m.

What effect rail privatisation will have on the future of the concessionary fares scheme for pensioners and disabled people in London.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport
(Viscount Goschen)

My Lords, concessionary rail fares for pensioners and disabled people in London are being safeguarded under privatisation. The franchising director requires franchise operators to participate in the London concessionary fares scheme, and he will continue to do so provided the boroughs wish to maintain a rail scheme and are prepared to continue to fund it.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for the comfort in his Answer. Will he confirm that after a long period of negotiation the British Rail Board stopped discussions with the London boroughs, saying that it had to negotiate with each of the rail-operating companies and that the likelihood of a new seven-year agreement was therefore a little remote? Does that not in effect put the long-term future of the concessionary scheme for pensioners and the disabled in London into jeopardy?

No, my Lords, I do not believe that that is the case. The reason why the British Rail Board took its decision to defer a longer-term negotiation was that at the time the decision was made I understand that only one of the franchises was in private hands and the rest were still in the public sector. Therefore, the board considered it more appropriate to wait until progress had been made and more of the franchises were in the private sector. We believe that it will be in a position to negotiate with the London boroughs to agree a scheme for the future.

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, whereas London Regional Transport has operated for some time a system so that the disabled traveller can pay the excess beyond the limit of the scheme at the station where the traveller got on board, British Rail has only recently agreed to that; indeed, it was some way behind London Regional Transport? It agreed at the instance of the Association of London Authorities. Does he agree that it is very important for disabled people that that facility should continue under the new dispensation so that they do not have to get off the train to buy the excess ticket and then get on the next train?

My Lords, I take the point that my noble friend has made; it is an important one. I believe that the train-operating companies will realise that they should not, unless absolutely necessary, insist that disabled people get off the train to buy another ticket. That would obviously present clear difficulties.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that, although the disablement rail card is guaranteed under the Act, there is no guarantee for the level of discount, which is obviously important? Does he further agree that there is no guarantee whatever about companions travelling with very severely disabled people, which is also important, or about the timing for the use of the rail card? Should not a strong message go out from Parliament that this is a social provision which should not be sacrificed for commercial considerations?

My Lords, I understand that the noble Lord is referring to the national scheme whereby disabled people have a discount card to travel on the railways. It has been common practice for a very long time now for such cards and discounts to be available. It is provided within the Act that that type of card shall continue. We believe that the national scheme has been a success. As regards concessionary schemes on a wider basis, it has been shown that they pay their way, although that is not necessarily the case with the card for the disabled. But I believe that the scheme will continue to operate in a successful manner.

My Lords, will my noble friend continue to give the facts of the case, because this is not the first time that these scare stories have been run just before local elections? Will he be sure to continue to give the facts as he has given them?

My Lords, I shall certainly endeavour to continue to give the facts. The facts here are that there is no cause to be concerned. It has been a perfectly straightforward decision by the British Rail Board in the light of the stage in the privatisation scheme. The train-operating companies will have the opportunity to negotiate with the London boroughs to agree a discount scheme when it comes up for renewal.

My Lords, is the Minister aware that there are no local elections in London? Does he recognise that the continuing uncertainty is causing concern among the elderly and the disabled? Therefore, why is it not possible for the Minister to ensure, by knocking heads together in this way as soon as possible, that an agreement is reached which is similar to the current situation? Would that not be the best outcome?

My Lords, I do not believe there is any need to panic about this, nor to bang heads together: the matter is perfectly straightforward. The duty under the instructions and guidance given to the franchising director requires that the new train-operating companies participate in this scheme, provided the London boroughs wish to continue to fund it. The indication is that they do. Therefore, we have no reason to believe that a proper scheme will not continue to operate.


My Lords, after the debate on the role of the police service and before the debate on the strategy for the management of salmon, my noble friend Lord Lindsay will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is to be made in another place on the outcome of the Agriculture Council.

The Police Service

3.9 p.m.

rose to call attention to the role of the police service in modern British society; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, perhaps I may say first how much I am looking forward to hearing the maiden contributions of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle and the noble Lord, Lord Norton.

Being a policeman in a free and democratic society is a testing vocation. There are strict laws of criminal evidence and criminal procedure to protect the accused. There are open frontiers for people to cross freely without let or hindrance. There is the constant possibility that if a police officer makes a wrong decision, he will be sued in an increasingly litigious society.

I suppose that in our own democracy the test for the policeman is even greater. In this country the police carry no weapons. In the special circumstances when they do, the use of those weapons is tightly circumscribed. The individual, thank heavens, is not obliged to carry identification; and the police enjoy no special constitutional protection under our law. On the one hand, a policeman is a public officer; if he neglects his public duty, he commits an offence. On the other hand, if in apprehending a criminal, or a person in the course of an act of public disorder, a policeman uses excess power beyond what is reasonable in the circumstances, he also commits an offence. Walking that tightrope and getting the balance right for the man on the spot who has to think quickly is extremely difficult. Our constitutional history is littered with examples of how the constable on the beat has had to cope with such difficulties.

That is particularly true today when we are faced with so many single issue problems such as animal welfare and animal rights, the building of motorways and the construction of nuclear power stations. People who would never have dreamt of committing an offence in their life suddenly feel bound to protest in public. The policeman then has to deal with individuals who are normally his own supporters. In facing that dilemma, the policeman must clearly have our support.

The powder and shot of the debates in another place on the police is statistical, with references to the relationship between the number of crimes and the number of policemen who are employed to confront those crimes. However, the truth of the matter, as I hope all your Lordships will agree, is that the effectiveness of the police is only one factor in determining the level of crime in this country. We all have our own views about other factors, which may include the breakdown of the family unit, the breakdown of authority in schools and the uncontrolled violence on our television screens. The latter is a controversial point for some people; I have no doubt that it is a big factor. Above all, perhaps I should refer to the awful events recently in Dunblane. All of those factors are beyond the reach of the Home Office. They are matters that run deep into the history of post-war British society. We cannot pretend to solve those problems overnight.

In any case, the impact of the police on crime is not simply a question of numbers. Indeed, if it were simply a question of numbers, I would be extremely depressed; because in our democratic society the Secretary of State for the Home Department has to compete for resources with the Secretary of State for Health, the Secretary of State for Education and Employment and the Secretary of State for Defence. In the long run it would be extremely difficult for the Home Office to have a greater claim for an increase in resources than those other important departments. What is crucial with regard to policing and the way in which we tackle crime is to make effective use of the resources available to us.

I remember reading the Royal Armoured Corps tactical manual some 30 years ago. Its details are now somewhat dim, but three important principles stand out. The first is that the single most important ingredient of success is morale; the second is that time spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted; and the third is, "Concentrate for effect". That is quite a good way of analysing the effectiveness of our police force today.

I turn first to morale, which in a way is the most difficult ingredient to analyse although it is the most important. I congratulate my right honourable friend the Home Secretary and my noble friend the Minister on their efforts—successful efforts, I believe—to improve the security of the individual policeman on the beat with improved body protection, better truncheons and the possible use of CS gas. They are all crucial for the individual policeman's sense of security and well-being. We owe it to our police to provide them with that security. I refer also to the investment which Her Majesty's Government are now making in the DNA database and in national access to the automated analysis of fingerprints. Those are all important in terms of building up police confidence as are questions of pay and conditions of service.

However, there remains the elusive factor of morale. The 16th/5th Lancers had morale when I had the honour of serving under the command of my noble friend Lord Vivian. Many of our police forces have high morale, but some do not. It boils down to a question of leadership—that unfashionable, politically incorrect ingredient which is everything in a crisis. The trouble about leadership is that by the time you discover that you do not have it, it is usually too late to do anything about it. That is why I think that the relatively short-term contracts between police authorities and their chief constables are rather a good thing.

My second precept—that time spent on reconnaissance is seldom wasted—is perhaps the area in which the greatest improvement can be made. Recent American studies suggest that 60 per cent. of crimes in urban areas are committed in only 5 per cent. of the area. That is an astonishing statistic, but I believe that it is borne out throughout most of the United States. It is likely also to be true of our own country. It is crucial that each police authority invests resources in trying to identify such locations in its areas of responsibility so that police resources can be directed and targeted accurately.

In this context, I should like to raise the question of assessing police performance. The Audit Commission is doing extremely good work in this area. The speed with which telephone calls are answered and the response of incident units are vital when gauging the efficiency and effectiveness of a particular force. But it can be taken too far. It will encourage chief constables to skew their resources in the direction of activities which are measurable. The Chief Constable of West Mercia, for example, has 20 of his constables going around schools in the area to talk to pupils about drugs. That is a vital and important task. I suspect that in the long run its benefits will prove immeasurable; yet that work will not show up in the measurements of the Audit Commission. Perhaps telephone calls will be less swiftly answered; but I suspect that in the long run crime will be reduced in that area because of that initiative. All reconnaissance activities are of that nature. I hope that my noble friend the Minister will take account of that factor when looking ahead at the question of police assessment.

My third precept relates to the maxim, "Concentrate for effect". Clearly, the more accurate the information that is available, the more targeted and concentrated will be the response. That must be the focus of our police forces over the next few years. But the fact remains that however effective we are we will still not satisfy the demands of the public for more policing in their particular area. Indeed, there is no way to satisfy that demand completely.

But much can be done through communication and education. I greatly applaud the work of most chief constables who, in preparing their policing plans, now involve local communities, not only to see what contribution they can make in terms of Neighbourhood Watch and so on, but, just as importantly, to explain why particular police forces have to be concentrated in certain areas; and, if there is a policing gap about which individuals within the community are worried, to find out how it can be filled. In part, it can be filled by technology. Her Majesty's Government have done a great deal to encourage the use of closed circuit television. In my home county of Shropshire I know how much that has helped to reduce crime in Telford New Town. I think it is important to commit more resources to it.

One also has to take into account the special constabulary who are part-time, properly trained, uniformed volunteers; if you like, the Territorial Army of the police force. We need more special constables. I trust that some attention is being given to the matter by my noble friend the Minister. I wonder whether, if we are to generate the number of special constables we shall need in future, some thought may be given to changing their terms of service. I would far rather have that than see ordinary citizens, even in the guise of security guards employed by a security firm, going on to the streets to take on the task of a constable. I believe that that is undesirable; I trust that it will be discouraged.

One of the great constitutional glories of our police is that the system of command and control throughout our history has been highly decentralised. That has been extremely important in underpinning our freedom. At the time of the passage through Parliament of the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994 concern was expressed about the threat to that decentralisation. The Bill was subject to substantial pruning. We now have a year's experience of the relationship between police authorities and chief constables. I believe that the experience has been good. I am particularly struck by the new transparency in the system which has resulted from the preparation of the annual police plan. I also believe that the new composition of the police authority has brought to the supervision of police work a wider range of individual experience than was available under the old watch committee. For that we have to be very grateful.

The potential worry posed by the new contractual relationship between the chief constable and the police authority can be avoided provided that police authorities do not attempt to interfere with the day-to-day business of policing, which must remain exclusively under the control of the chief constable. I have great affection for the watch committee, which served this nation well for over 150 years. But I believe that the police authority will prove to be an even better guarantor of good relations between the police and local communities.

At the beginning of the 1960s there was a Royal Commission report on the police. Mr. Leslie Hale, a Member of another place who served on the commission, spoke about the supervisory standards of watch committees. He said:

"We went to one borough … where we found that the former chief constable had been absent from duty almost continuously for years. Every time the pigeon shooting season began on the Riviera he gave himself long sick leave and the corporation had never seen the report of the inspector of constabulary … We said, 'What about it?' Members of the corporation said, 'We wanted it, but think what would happen if we reported the matter to the Home Office. They would send him back'".

I believe that we have much to be thankful for in the present management of the police.

I beg to move for Papers.

3.25 p.m.

My Lords, your Lordships must have heard many a blushing confession from episcopal maidens that they find the prospect of addressing your Lordships' House daunting in the extreme. We can cope with the ceremonial of introduction to the House, accustomed as we are to participation in ritual the exact significance of which is not at all clear to the uninitiated; but from our usual vantage point in the pulpit, described as six feet above contradiction, speaking on the Floor of your Lordships' House leaves one feeling very exposed. I take comfort from the generous welcome that I have already received and hope that growing experience will gradually encourage confidence.

In this very important matter before us I want to refer to four aspects of relationships between the police and the people at large. First, the police are our surrogates. We rely upon them to uphold the law, to keep the peace and to secure our freedoms of speech, movement and assembly. They do this on our behalf. Any element of "them" and "us" in attitudes between the people and the police is to be abhorred. But just to say that is to be reminded how complex that task has become and how much work still needs to be done in educating attitudes. Perhaps we should heed Shylock in the Merchant of Venice:
"Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?".
If we were to substitute for Jew, on the one hand, the words "the police" and, on the other, such phrases as "young persons", "football hooligans", "blacks" or any other group that thinks of itself as a target, we might just begin again to treat one another as human beings. Unless we acknowledge our common humanity we are lost.

Secondly, the police are working largely on the edges of society. Queen Elizabeth I reminded her Parliament of the very fine dividing line between liberty and licence. That is a tightrope that the police walk every day. We need to recognise the delicacy of balance in making judgments about policy and police practice and the difficulty for individual commanders or officers on the ground in making such decisions in the heat of the moment. These are matters which require frequent, open review and open accountability. Police authorities have a particular responsibility here. Most of us need friends on whose support and encouragement we can rely but who will also tell us frankly the very things that we need to hear when our integrity is at stake, and especially when nobody else will.

Thirdly, I mention the importance of partnership. At almost every meeting that I attend with secular bodies the need for partnership is in the air and there is a great deal of willingness to put it into practice. This certainly includes the police. But I believe that there are many creative developments yet to take place; for example, in shared training which includes police, probation officers, community workers, some teachers and clergy, to name but a few of the professions whose work regularly takes them to the edges of society. This is often focused in a particular community or on a particular street. Shared training and reflection on experience would secure any of those groups I have named from developing a ghetto mentality when times are hard or public opinion is hostile.

Excellent work has been and is being done between community relations and the police in improving racial awareness. It was heart-warming to hear the other day the parents of Stephen Lawrence, whose private prosecution of those alleged to have murdered their son had just failed and who understandably felt at the time that justice had not been done, nevertheless, paying warm tribute to the police, who had greatly assisted them in mounting their prosecution.

I have recently chaired a Church working party on working with young people. The report Youth Apart has just been published. So your Lordships will understand my fourth point, which is that there needs to be positive discrimination in favour of the young.

I am aware that some noble Lords share my distaste for an over-reliance on statistics. But in national figures, kindly supplied by the Chief Constable of Cumbria, relating to convictions in magistrates' courts in 1994 the following picture emerges: there were convicted between the ages of 10 and 14, 2,653 boys and 287 girls; between the ages of 14 and 18, 28,587 males and 3,970 females; and between the ages of 18 and 21, 36,781 males and 5,180 females.

. Our working party's report revealed that one third of all children had been subject to some sort of racial assault; more than a quarter had been threatened with violence; one in 10 had been the subject of street theft; and nearly one third of girls aged between 14 and 15 had been victims of some kind of sexual assault by an adult man. The record of proceedings in your Lordships' House on 25th April elicited the information that four children had been convicted of murder and two of manslaughter in the three years 1992 to 1994. Today we have the outrageous news that Louise Allen of Corby was kicked to death while trying to stop a fight between fellow 13 year-olds.

It is no wonder that the Bishop of Hull yesterday called for a great deal of increased energy and resource to be put into the whole business of parenting. Every parent and every professional involved with those age groups needs to address the challenge of positive discrimination to contain and, it is hoped, to reverse those alarming increases.

It is said that a country gets the politicians it deserves. I have no doubt it is also thought that the Church gets the Bishops it deserves; but it is of critical importance that we all get the police we deserve. That will happen only if the police know that their work, in all its complexity, is understood, supported and resourced, to enable the constabulary to fulfil—on behalf of us all—its essential service, which is to ensure that this country continues to enjoy the liberty it deserves.

3.34 p.m.

My Lords, it gives me great pleasure to be the first to congratulate the right reverend Prelate on his maiden speech. It was delivered with an eloquence which I am sure matches his eloquence from the pulpit. He was right to emphasise what seems to many of us to be the parallel work of the clergy with that of the police. It is the duty of the clergy to maintain the good and to put down the wrong, just as it is that of the police. The words that we have heard, and will hear, from the Bishops' Bench are I am sure very much in point. In works of reference, the right reverend Prelate gives his recreation as politics. I must say that if this is his idea of recreation, he must do what his profession tells him to do with an amazing amount of skill and eloquence.

I wish to say just a few words about the prospect of the international element of police work being developed in future years. Before I do so, I want to make it clear that I have an interest in the police in that I am a consultant to the Police Federation. On the other hand, I am not here as a representative of the Police Federation, nor, indeed, have I taken the advice of the Police Federation in this matter. I am expressing entirely my own views about the police service without having consulted or spoken to any organisation about it. I hope I am therefore in order.

It has been a customary practice for British service people to think little of being in the international sphere. Indeed, the British Armed Forces have taken part in activities overseas perhaps nearly as much as they have in this country. It was not thought strange in 1944 that the entire British Army of Europe was under the command of a foreigner. However, it has always been thought that the police are constables engaged in work on an exclusively British sovereign basis.

I wonder whether that idea will be able to survive the developments, the treaties, and the agreements between nations that are springing up more and more widely throughout the world; whether it will be possible to maintain the pure Britishness of the British policeman without creating an intolerable security deficit in view of the breaking down of barriers between countries.

In that connection, I should like to mention one or two areas where the overseas element of police work is expanding, and is likely to expand, and needs to be taken much more into consideration. British training of police officers is being extended more and more overseas.

I recently visited Bramshill Police College near Hartley Wintney in Hampshire where I was interested and pleased to see the range of nationalities of the students at that academy. There were even some officers from the new Palestinian entity being trained to be police officers in the West Bank and Gaza.

It is obviously vital, as the world becomes narrower in terms of time and volume of movement from country to country, that policemen should be involved closely in cross-frontier work, whether it is in preventing, deterring, or punishing football violence, or in the wide area of drug abuse.

I wish to mention two areas that might be called growth areas of international police work. The first is what might be called—if it were to exist—the EU criminal offence. I know that there is no such thing at the moment as an EU criminal offence, but there are activities which are contrary to the treaty and which cost the taxpayer billions of pounds every year. I have in mind in particular agricultural fraud. The ability of the police to deal with agricultural fraud is seriously circumscribed by the lack of any code of criminal activity and punishment system, and by the precept that activities against agricultural fraud are taken by the authorities of the country where the fraud takes place rather than by the Commission in Brussels which might be seen as the central authority—the fount of the laws in question—or by any servants of the Commission in Brussels. Could there be a role for the police in that activity? Some may think strange the idea of a police officer dealing with olives or surpluses of agricultural produce, but the amount of money involved is no joke and the cost to British taxpayers is enormous.

Another area in which international police activity may well expand is in respect of what has become known as the international outlaw. It is now seen as desirable that certain individuals who are suspected of having committed terrible crimes should be brought to account on criminal charges, even if those crimes were committed outside the territory where they were arrested or brought to book. For instance, an alleged Bosnian war criminal is on trial in The Hague and a man who allegedly committed crimes in Hitler's Germany is on trial in this country. At least two men who allegedly committed crimes in Hitler's Germany were on trial in Israel. I believe that a member of the Government of Iran would be arrested for criminal offences of a heinous nature if he were to come to this country or to any other country in Europe. A person who murders an American citizen commits a crime against American law even if the crime is committed outside United States territory. How are we to handle that and retain, if we must, a purity of the sovereignty of the British constable? I suspect that it Will not be possible to achieve that.

We know that there is a further movement towards international policing in the Europol organisation in The Hague, a matter which was debated by your Lordships some months ago. We are frequently told by Ministers of all EU countries that there is no intention to set up an FBI, either through Europol or any other organisation. The bridge towards the idea of an international crime is not yet fully crossed, although it is beginning to be crossed as regards agricultural fraud and the concept of the international outlaw. I should be pleased if my noble friend the Minister could indicate her thoughts on the idea of the internationalisation of the British bobby and on his or her duty to uphold law and order abroad as well as at home.

3.43 p.m.

My Lords, I am informed that maiden speeches are to be short and unprovocative. I shall attempt both but ask your Lordships' tolerance for my first attempt at a contribution in your Lordships' House. However, I have a view that British society faces a far more serious problem than is generally realised. I shall quote statistics from official sources which, by their very nature, are thought-provoking and which many noble Lords may find hard to believe.

First, I must declare an interest. I have connections with loss adjusting and insurance which sometimes comes across policyholder fraud, which in turn involves the police. I would like to refer to that aspect of the police service later.

Policing is tough and demanding. One is constantly hearing how the role of the police service requires more and more resources. Recently three men were arrested on information received. There was no room in the cells nor in the interview room so they were locked in the waiting room. The police station then received a telephone call from an informant who said that the wrong people had been arrested. The three suspects were released. The telephone has now been removed from the waiting room.

I submit that the very title of this debate indicates a role change from what British society sees as the role of the police—namely, catching criminals—to the softer picture of service to the public, rather than a force against crime.

The last of the six performance targets of the Metropolitan Police is:
"To leave our customers with a good impression of the service received".
Who would guess that the police now have customers? Is it the role of the police to have customers? Who are the customers? Is it a satisfied criminal with a good impression of the service received? Effective policing requires the co-operation of British society—a partnership, not a supplier/customer relationship.

Now the police service has charters and performance targets, an abundance of literature about answering telephones in 15 seconds or 30 seconds, car arrival times, letter writing times and statistical surveys on a mass of topics. The police role has to contend with charter principles and the setting of standards, information and openness, choice, consultation, courtesy, helpfulness, redress, and value for money.

Of course, those are important, but I submit that their proper emphasis is in police training. I submit that this marketing and public relations approach confuses the role of the police. It is the constable on the beat who has the closest social contact and who makes the decision affecting the public. He must have a clear role and he must understand it.

The role of the police service is not just catching criminals. Youth education, crime prevention, crime targeting and victim support all play a part. The problem of deciding the emphasis that each aspect of policing is to have starts with the facts such as they can be ascertained. How much crime is there and how many victims are there in British society?

When studying crime, the important word is not crime but reported crime. The two are very different and constantly confused. In the 1994 Home Office crime report the Home Office acknowledges, on page 15:
"The statistics of recorded crime do not necessarily portray the full picture of crime experienced by society at large".
The report also records on page 27 that the 1994 British crime survey suggests that total actual crime in categories that can be compared to police figures may be four times police recorded crime.

When violent crime is such a priority, how can the police play an effective role when it is estimated by the survey that actual wounding crimes are four times the police figures? Thefts from people are eight times the police figures. How do lower figures help British society to co-operate and place their trust in the police when they are experiencing more crime than the police record? The British crime survey titled Trends in Crime Fighting suggests that British society goes to the trouble of reporting half the crimes and the police record a third of those crimes. What is the purpose of that practice?

I put it to your Lordships that if company accounts were prepared on the same basis as the police figures there would be many directors and accountants being interviewed by the police. The police station has discovered creative accounting.

Having contrived the problem, how do we measure the success of the police role? Crime is not solved, it is cleared up. One of the criteria that will clear up a crime is to charge someone with the offence being investigated. That will clear the crime up. If the defendant is found not guilty the crime is still cleared up. At present 12 per cent. of crimes cleared up fall into this category.

The crime has been recorded and solved, so how do we pass the Home Office inspection? The Home Office assesses the efficiency of the police service. When it comes to an annual certificate of efficiency inspections, fraud—a cancer in society—is not one of the national performance indicators. At present the police service receives no credit for devoting resources to this area. Fraud investigations are often costly and complex, so it is only natural for the police to think of other priorities if their work on fraud is not recognised as valuable and effective.

The figures for fraud are staggering. Sir Dennis Henry stated in a speech to the National Fraud Forum in 1994 that reported fraud in 1992 totalled £8.5 billion. The Director General of the National Criminal Intelligence Service estimates corporate fraud at £10 billion annually and rising. By way of contrast, the 1992 figure for burglary totalled £500 million and car crime £700 million.

According to the business section of a newspaper last Sunday, a report prepared for a meeting of the Law Society's ruling council this Thursday will reveal that out of 621 solicitors' firms that were spot checked, 60 per cent. were involved in fraud. Evidence of mortgage-related fraud was found in 105 cases of the same sample. I do not know how those 621 firms were selected. I am sure that 60 per cent. of solicitors' firms cannot be engaged in fraud.

The role of the police service against this tidal wave of fraud is 850 anti-fraud police officers out of the total strength of 120,000—less than 1 per cent. of the police service. Fighting fraud is not at present a key objective for the 43 police forces in England and Wales.

We are not being fair to the police service if we do not acknowledge the true extent of the crime problem. There needs to be realistic analysis of crime, free of political considerations, to provide the resources required. The role needs to be planned and defined, long-term roles such as youth education cannot be switched on and off: they take many years to be effective. If we do not give the police service the correct resources then we are letting British society down and there will be further social decay as a result.

3.53 p.m.

My Lords, it falls to me to congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Norton, on his quite excellent maiden speech. I trust that his warnings will not fall on deaf ears because they are most timely. I can find out very little about the noble Lord other than that he is the same age as my elder son. He is a chartered accountant. However, his interests, including flying, skiing and music, indicate to me that he is a true and independent spirit. We much look forward to hearing future contributions to our debates.

My noble friend Lord Kingsland has provided us with an excellent opportunity to discuss the role of the police. As an aside, perhaps I may say that I envy greatly his ability to speak without a note. It seems to me essential that the police should have the necessary resources, both in terms of finance and manpower, and all the latest technological equipment in order to prevent and combat crime. As my noble friend Lord Bethell said, so many crimes involve overseas co-operation. Are we wrong to object to the European Court of Justice supervising Europol activities and arbitrating in Europol disputes? Do the police agree with that policy?

There has been a great deal of publicised success for police operations that involved co-operation with local authorities and the public by way of speed cameras and neighbourhood and farm watch schemes. I understand that the BBC "Crimewatch" programmes, which are seen in many countries, are also extremely successful.

The arts loss register was set up only four years ago. It has already shown that many valuable items stolen both in this country and abroad can be recovered, even after many years. Again, that shows the need for worldwide co-operation among police forces.

My noble friend Lord Kingsland mentioned closed circuit television cameras. I asked a Question of my noble friend Lady Blatch about that last week. She was able to tell the House that the policy has been extremely successful and that it is expanding. It has enabled the police to pursue successful prosecutions.

Following lengthy discussions on the possible introduction of identity cards, for which a number of your Lordships have been pressing, I note that a voluntary identity card scheme will be proposed soon by the Government, based on the new European Union driving licence. The voluntary option is preferred by the police who understandably wish to avoid unnecessary confrontation with the public.

The members of the police service cannot do their job, which is often extremely unenviable, without the assistance of the public. I hope that the Government will listen to the concerns of the police service and will act upon all of them. The future is always uncertain but it is to be hoped that we shall all feel more secure and that the police service is, with our support, doing its best to make us so.

3.57 p.m.

My Lords, I join in congratulating the noble Lord, Lord Norton, on his maiden speech which was excellent because it analysed so many of the problems which we face in society today. I congratulate also the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle on his maiden speech which was excellently delivered. As one who retires this year and thus effectively falls off the end of this Bench, it is extremely good to welcome him to the other end of the Bench. Whether, when he falls off, he will still follow politics as a hobby or whether, like me, he will then prefer to walk the mountains alone remains to be seen.

I wish to concentrate on the relationship and interplay between the police and the Church, which is of increasing importance in today's society. It is highly relevant to this debate. Most Bishops have an excellent rapport with their chief constable. That is of mutual value. High-level discussion and action results from that contact. Quite a number of clergy, including my own chaplain, are valued members of police authorities and there are many excellent friendships between the clergy and the police at local level.

A major development in recent years has been that of police chaplaincy. It was introduced in 1851 but it is only in the past eight years that the number of police chaplains has increased from 20 to 200, mainly in England. It is expected to increase further as the value of those chaplains is experienced.

They work confidentially. They are drawn from all the Christian Churches and provide moral and spiritual support to the police service. They also develop links between the other faith communities and the police. The chaplains are aware of and are concerned about the great pressure under which police officers work, especially when they have been involved in an incident in which they have suffered injury. For example, there were 640 assaults on police officers in the county of Cheshire last year. That is twice the national average. But against that it is important to note that our county has one of the highest crime detection rates. My own chaplain, recently accompanying a police sergeant to see things at first-hand in Runcorn, saw the officer's life being seriously threatened with two kitchen knives in a domestic incident. He again saw at first-hand how the danger of the police task is worsening.

The police have adopted a statement of common purpose and values. Underlying this is the belief that in a democratic society a police service will be successful only if it enjoys the trust, confidence and respect of the public it serves. Such respect can be won only if the service upholds the highest professional values which the public have a right to expect. One practical implication is the need to monitor the reaction of the community, who are in a real sense the customer. The aim is to install a sense of personal commitment within individual police officers to an ideal of service to the community.

As the stated primary purpose of a police authority, at least in Cheshire, is,
"to secure the maintenance of an efficient police force",
in the area, there is always the need to balance the concept of force with that of service by the police. Chaplains can assist in that process. But chaplaincy to the police is essentially pastoral. The chaplain's presence allows for a point of contact that is independent of rank and the accountability of the police service. One important role is that chaplains can clarify ethical issues. Community relations, the surveillance of suspected criminals with a past record and involvement in domestic violence all raise difficult questions of the values which an impartial police service should follow. In many areas where the police serve there are acute racial tensions, unemployment and broken marriages or other relationships. It is not easy to discern what are the appropriate responses of the police in such examples of social breakdown, and the chaplain can assist the police in discussing how they respond.

There is also an important role for parochial clergy who may not be chaplains. They know their area at first-hand level by living there. They know the fears, the hopes and the experiences of those among whom they work and live—be it inner city, housing estate, town or village.

The demand for community safety is considerable. As the recent quality of life survey of Cheshire County Council has shown, despite a lower level of crime than the national average, the county's citizens gave high scores concerning crime and the fear of crime. Chaplains can empathise with the police in the gap between expectations and possibilities and in the real tension between delivering police performance targets and core business, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, ancillary and unquantifiable service, including reassurance. They can meet with police in consultative committees.

In Hackney there have been regular meetings between police and clergy. One parish priest, Peter Hobson, who is the adviser to the Bishop of Stepney on police relations, speaks of that dialogue. He says that they have reached,
"a degree of mutual understanding that has been of real benefit and has enabled sharp criticisms to be made and heard".
In that way, the police are becoming more accountable to the community and Churches are effectively contributing to the well-being of society. I find that encouraging and I hope that your Lordships do so as well.

However, I add a postscript. In the light of that growing relationship, there must be serious questions asked about the plans for a national crime squad which will cross county boundaries and thus presumably not be accountable to the chief constable or to local police authorities; or, indeed, to the interplay with the Church. I urge the Government to look closely at those aspects of their plans. What could be seen as an advance in fighting national crime as a force—with national accountability only in budgetary control and strategic planning—could be a regrettable backward step in policing as a service, with serious implications for the ethical responsibility and local accountability that have been developed in recent years; and that is discouraging.

4.4 p.m.

My Lords, there are quite a few viewpoints from which the police may be assessed. There is the public's perception, that of the motorist, government and criminals; and there is the force's opinion of itself. It seems that there are government moves afoot to address core functions and for the police to relinquish historical responsibilities. This means changing the role, albeit inefficient and ineffective, of the traditional constable, previously known to everyone on his beat, so that his only contact with the public becomes confrontational. If the service is to become a law enforcement agency only, and policing by consent is removed, what will happen when you can no longer turn to your helpful officer in an emergency?

Can you turn to the social services? No; of course you cannot. They are not available all the time. If the police have to forgo their social role, the support of the public will be lost. The police will still be arresting people but the number of assaults on officers will increase because of changed attitudes. After all, if your local bobby helps you, you, in turn, will help him. But if you have only seen him rushing to an incident in his motor vehicle and have never met him in a passive, community role, why—notwithstanding your legal obligation—would you assist him?

Different organisations produce different, sometimes conflicting, reports, and the police have had to endure many changes over the past three years. They have become somewhat fatigued as a result and now need time to take stock before the next changes are imposed upon them. It seems that all the Audit Commission is concerned about is making savings through cost cutting with little being said about improving the service to the public. But savings could be achieved and more efficient policing would result from having a common computer system.

Each force has its own system which does not necessarily talk to an adjoining force's computer. Consequently, intelligence operations, which might affect many areas, are denied to forces which could benefit. I am led to believe that about 80 per cent. of crime is committed by people who live within five miles of the incident. If this occurs over a boundary where computers are not always compatible, it means that the offender may not be apprehended. So a standardised computer system would benefit all forces.

I believe that the main policing objectives are currently aimed at property-related opportunist and violent crime. The former can occur at any time, as, indeed, can the latter, but I believe that a large proportion of violent crimes can be associated with youngsters affected by drink and/or drugs and occur mostly on Friday or Saturday nights. However, there seems to be little or no government support to reduce the number of road deaths which would, in turn, reduce the burden on the health service. That has led to some chief constables disbanding their specialist traffic departments which could handle complex European and UK legislation and, incidentally, assist prosecutors in court.

Those forces which no longer have traffic departments as such rely on quick-response vehicles when an officer is expected to attend to a problem immediately. I understand that some forces regret disbanding and dispersing their traffic officers to the detriment of road safety. Traffic violations by heavy goods vehicles and public service vehicles (as they used to be called) are dealt with by the police. But the inspection of vehicles, which always produces defects and highlights poor maintenance, is generally done by ministry personnel who do not necessarily work unsocial hours. That means that unroadworthy vehicles could be slipping through the net.

Tiredness affects everyone. The hours that a PSV or an HGV driver has spent behind the wheel can be checked by the trace on the tachometer graph. However, a specialist traffic officer would, if doubt existed, assess fatigue by including an investigation into a whole month's graphs—not just the current one—which illustrate the trend towards tiredness much better.

In years gone by, officers often used to sacrifice opportunities for promotion in order to follow a specialised area of interest. Now that officers are sometimes rotated on a 10-year service cycle, it means that there is a need for continuous training with newcomers replacing experienced officers who, in turn, may have to be retrained. Because of the uncertainty of a career path thus caused, morale can be affected.

Police forces are budget-led and are often unable to produce what the public want. Any extra, unexpected policing requirement, such as that necessitated by people protesting against the Newbury bypass and the export of live animals from Essex ports, for example, can severely reduce manpower elsewhere; can mean that the purchase of capital items has to be postponed; and can lead to officers experiencing additional stress through the extensive hours worked.

Modern society seems to take more care of the physical and mental well-being of the offender than of the victim or of the police. I hope that this focus of attention will be changed. The low morale and, sometimes, lack of direction do not hide the fact that officers of all ranks still maintain their complete enthusiasm for the job. For this we should all be thankful.

4.10 p.m.

My Lords, we are grateful for the two good maiden speeches, which were helpful. We are not only discussing the solving of crime and the spotting, discovery and prevention of attempts at crime, as can be gathered from what has been said; we are considering this matter far more deeply and fully.

The firm hand of the police is welcome in all this, but that must be combined with understanding and sensitivity. This, on the whole, the police have, as is revealed in the Police magazine. That magazine shows the various activities of the police, not only those directly connected with their work but also the indirect activities in which individuals take part in trying to help their local communities. We are grateful for the police who undertake those activities on their own initiative. As is revealed in the Police magazine, those policemen have achieved wonderful things in their relationships with the local communities.

The police need the public to put themselves out to appreciate the wide and immense task that they have. In this way their role can be strengthened and improved. The police would appreciate that effort from us. It would help achieve a healthy harmony between the public and the police. I am sure that that is possible. In my experience of the police I have found them to be helpful. One day I received a call from my wife while I was in this House to say that our rectory had been burgled. I could not have been more grateful to the police for the way they responded to the situation. They gave much help and comfort to my wife and two daughters until I returned home.

The public need to achieve a partnership with the police to enable the police successfully to set their priorities. However, they need to have the necessary resources. I have been taken on a useful visit to the headquarters of the Wiltshire Police in Swindon. Two policemen showed me round the headquarters. We discussed their work, their hopes and their fears. They also accompanied me round their "beat". I travelled in one of their cars and they showed me the gadgets and explained how they enabled them to detect motorists' misdemeanours. We should try to understand how the police feel and to understand their worries. We should realise that they, like us, have families. If we try to understand the police, they will respond to that.

I believe that the police, in partnership with the Government and the public can, and will, establish more peaceful communities. I have some idea of what it is like to be a policeman. Some years ago I was in Kenya. Noble Lords will realise that was some time ago when I refer to the Mau Mau emergency which occurred at that time before Kenya achieved its independence. There was a call-up and one chose either to serve in the police or the army or to serve as a prison officer. As I was already in the police reserve I chose the police force and for about 18 months I served as a full-time policeman. That experience enables me to appreciate the work of the police. The situation in this country may be slightly different from that which occurred in Kenya but it is not totally different. At that time in Kenya I—there was another European—had about 20 African askaris under my command. That experience has given me an insight into what the police have to do.

I fully support the police. I believe that Her Majesty's Government, along with the Minister on the Front Bench and the Home Secretary, are trying to help them. Sometimes when I have shown my enthusiasm for the police and what they are trying to do, and how well they do it, some individuals are surprised that I should express such enthusiasm. I hope and believe that those people are in the minority. Let us help the police fulfil their role and give comfort and strength to them and to their families. As we know—this has been stated—they, too, suffer. They should not have to suffer any more than they do. That may seem an odd phrase, but they should not have to suffer as much as they do. May God help our police and bless them. I believe that they are the finest. It would be hard for any other nation's police force to do better. Other forces look up to our police and seek to learn from them.

4.16 p.m.

My Lords, anyone researching the nature of policing in this country would no doubt find it interesting, if not indeed somewhat surprising, that, unlike the position in, for example, Scotland, the functions and responsibilities of police forces, originating as they do largely from common law and established practice, have never been formally expressed statutorily or otherwise.

They would also be surprised, I suggest, to find that when the first paid, professional police forces were created by statute in 1829 it was not Parliament or the Home Secretary who first set out their role but the newly appointed Police Commissioner. As is probably well known, he said that their,
"principal object was the prevention of crime",
and that the security of person and property, the preservation of public tranquillity and all other objects of a police establishment would thus be better effected than by the detection and punishment of the offender after he had succeeded in committing the crime.

When I joined the force some 110 years later that was still the police philosophy, and I was taught that my responsibilities were to protect persons and property, to prevent crime, to detect, pursue and arrest offenders, to secure obedience to the law, to preserve the public peace and to prevent vagrancy—perhaps the only aspect at which we have been successful.

The Royal Commission on the Police in 1962—which has already been referred to this afternoon—commented on this non-statutory position and added to the generally recognised list of duties responsibility for prosecutions—which has now been removed, of course—controlling road traffic, certain duties on behalf of government departments and befriending anyone who needed their help.

More recently the 1993 White Paper on police reform stated that the main aim of the service should be to fight and prevent crime, to uphold the law, to bring to justice those who break the law and to protect, help and reassure the community. It made no specific reference, however, to keeping the Queen's peace. The subsequent Sheehy Report on police remuneration and rewards set out yet another list of responsibilities: to prevent crime, to pursue and bring to justice those who break the law, to keep the Queen's peace—Sheehy saw the need for that—and to protect, help and reassure the community.

Quite apart from the vast changes we have seen in society in the past 50 years, over the past decades there have been many developments which have impinged on the role of the police, whatever that should be. We saw the 1981 Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure, which led to the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984; and in 1993, within weeks of each other, three quite separate reviews of policing were published: the report of the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice; the Sheehy Inquiry into police responsibilities and rewards; and the Home Secretary's White Paper on police reform. Each was quite separate from the other and each recommended radical change in the structure and functioning of the service. These were followed by the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act in 1994 and a further Home Office review of police core and ancillary tasks which reported in 1995.

In addition, there has been a stream of reports from the Audit Commission dealing with police efficiency and effectiveness on matters such as organisation, criminal investigation and, more latterly, the police patrol function. All had different things to say, but none addressed the real question that needs answering: what is the fundamental role of the police in this country? What are they here to do?

Ever since 1829, the usual answer has been that they are here to fight crime. That has figured very largely in our debate this afternoon and it is generally given first priority over everything else. However, the evidence of many public surveys indicates that that is not their main preoccupation. The British Crime Survey, for example, shows that just one-fifth of public contacts with the police are about crime incidents (20 per cent.). A further 12 per cent. involve disturbances of one kind or another, while almost two-fifths (40 per cent.) involve simply the giving and receiving of information.

As to priorities, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Scarman, in his report on the 1981 Brixton disturbances, suggested that, in the event of a conflict of aims between the maintenance of public tranquillity and enforcement of the law, the former should be the prime responsibility of the police. In the light of all this and the lack of consensus and general confusion about the real role of the police, noble Lords may think that it is little wonder if the police themselves share the confusion.

Recognising the need to update the old Victorian philosophy and to reflect the changing values and perceptions of the public, the police themselves, in a statement of common purpose some time ago, said:
"The purpose of the police service is to uphold the law fairly and firmly; to prevent crime; to pursue and bring to justice those who break the law; to keep the Queen's Peace; to protect, help and reassure the community; and to be seen to do this with integrity, common sense and sound judgment".
The House may feel that that is not a bad start.

Whatever the role of the police is, clearly they need help from the community in achieving it. That raises many important and complex questions. For example, what should be the fundamental responsibilities of the police in the next century? Who should define them? Certainly not the police themselves, I suggest. Who should set the priorities? What part can the public play and how can their views be best obtained? What should be the role of local authorities and other agencies in reducing crime?

I used to think that local authorities should be statutorily required to take the lead in crime prevention and reduction because of the many services they controlled, such as education, housing, police, public health, leisure and recreation. But now that so many of their original functions have been taken over by other bodies, I am not so sure. Should they perhaps be statutorily required to co-ordinate the local activities of all the agencies that have a part to play and are involved, and from that produce what we might call a community crime reduction plan? Certainly all these agencies cannot, and must not, be allowed to work in isolation. What should be the boundaries between public and private policing? What should be the role of the private security industry? That issue was recently examined by a Select Committee in another place, and the reaction of the Home Office is still anxiously awaited.

These are but a few of the problems. What is required, it may be thought (certainly there is a belief that this is what is required and it is one that I share), is the need for a wide-ranging examination of these matters by a body representative of government, police, local authorities, industry, commerce and the community at large. Some have suggested a Royal Commission. I appreciate that such a step is unlikely to be taken in advance of a general election; but perhaps the political parties could consider it for inclusion in their manifestos.

Some steps along these lines were taken in 1993, when the Police Foundation and the Policy Studies Institute jointly set up an independent inquiry into the role and responsibilities of the police. I must disclose an interest. I am a trustee of the Police Foundation. Its report was published a few weeks ago, and I have drawn considerably upon it in preparing this speech.

I conclude by simply asking one question of the noble Baroness the Minister. Presuming that the Home Office has received a copy of that report, can she say whether any of the recommendations it contains are likely to be taken forward? Many are extremely important and are relevant to what happens to policing as we approach the next century.

4.26 p.m.

My Lords, I was so pleased to hear that the noble Lord who introduced this debate was from my regiment that I felt I ought to come out and support him.

The police really do need our support. They are going through a period when there is a great lack of respect on the part of youth. They are deliberately set upon by youths who set out deliberately to provoke them for the fun of being chased. In their efforts, the police have their hands tied behind their back. Every legal restriction makes their task more difficult. Even their time is restricted, given the amount that they have to spend on paperwork to deal with any case that they are able to prove.

There is also a lack of support on the part of the courts. I remember a case in which the police swore that they had seen, in the middle of the night, two people dropping jemmies. The two concerned swore that it was not them but two others who happened to be walking down the road at the time (who were in fact not there at all). The magistrates believed the potential criminals because they had sworn on oath, regardless of the fact that the police had also given sworn evidence. The pendulum has swung far too far in the direction of the defence. Electronic surveillance has been a great help in many cases. It has clearly enabled the police to bring evidence that they would not otherwise have been able to bring.

I should like to raise two points. First, the police are associated with solving crime. It is essential that they not only solve crime but do what they can to prevent it happening in the first place. That is where we should direct a lot of our effort. Many of the police are involved with youth groups. That is a good thing. But certainly the prevention of crime is infinitely better than its cure.

. My second point is that so much crime now is cross-border. A national police squad may well be a help in tackling that sort of crime. But to whom will it be accountable? What body will be responsible for budgetary control? How will a balance be struck between local and national police forces so that there is no conflict and the kind of trouble that is evident in the United States?

4.30 p.m.

My Lords, I am sure that the House is grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, for initiating the debate and for his speech of introduction which I thought was extremely positive. One point in his speech occurred to me as being very important. It is the danger at times, when we live in a statistical world, for the police to concentrate too much on "measurable success" as opposed to the pro-active long-term view of policing.

We have had two notable maiden speeches which I greatly enjoyed, they were positive but not controversial. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle made a distinctive contribution and I agreed with nearly every word. I particularly agreed with his suggestion of shared training and a shared approach between the police and other disciplines on the enormous problem of youth crime. I agree with him that the benefits must be given to youth as they emerge to cope at a difficult time and in difficult situations with the problems attendant on their age.

I was interested in the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Norton, which came from the London police about the sixth requirement referring to "customers". I do not believe that the police have customers any more than do the armed services. The police are a service, as many other organisations are services. One of the faults of our age is to try to import from business the idea of customers into services like the police to which it has no relevance. The service is one of which the police themselves are justly proud.

The noble Lord, Lord Knights, enabled us to consider at length what the real role of the police is. But in my view it does not change, even though the methods of discharging the role clearly do. The stability of our society is rooted in law and order being upheld in families and communities at every level. It is right that we should reflect from time to time, as we are doing today, on the best way that the police should respond to the changing pressures of modern society.

I start with the interesting statistic that the ratio of police officers to citizens in our country, England and Wales, is one to 407. Save for Denmark, that is the lowest of any European Union country. The average for the European Union is one to 257. Yet, interestingly enough, the cost to the UK of the Prison Service per head of population, as well as the cost of providing new prisons, is the third highest in Europe. We come after Portugal and Greece. I express the view that if we want to reassure the populace on law and order, we should do it by investing much more money in the police force and less on future prisons.

I wish to refer briefly to internationally organised crime, which has been mentioned. In an ever smaller world, with great movement of people and goods and with the revolution in communications, it is inevitable that much well publicised crime has taken on a distinctly international guise. That kind of organised crime requires an appropriate response. However, this country has been in the forefront, it is right to say, in establishing bilateral arrangements. Additionally, following Maastricht, the European-wide system for exchanging information, Europol, was established.

Taking that with the full benefits of Interpol, I believe that we are on the right lines. However, we should remind ourselves that the best estimate I can obtain of internationally organised crime is that, at its worst, it constitutes less than 1.5 per cent. of the actual crime in this country. Local police forces have a clear role to become more effective agencies of international crime protection and prevention, but we are in danger at times of thinking that internationally organised crime is becoming so dominant that it requires priority attention. In reality, it is still a relatively small proportion of our crime.

The basic, traditional philosophy of policing in the United Kingdom seems to me to be that of neighbourhood policing. It is to that notion, though it has to be interpreted in modern conditions, that we must return for effective and acceptable policing. There are increasingly sophisticated crime intelligence and crime pattern analysis systems as well as crime solution aids available to enable the police service to target offenders. But one must never underestimate the value of gossip. I remember as a young barrister being at an assizes when a highly respected chief constable pointed out to me a statement by another chief constable who had just been appointed. He was going to put all his men in panda cars. The experienced chief constable said to me: "Silly fool; they won't get the gossip". There is a great deal in that. With all the modern aids, the value of gossip, knowledge of the character of a neighbourhood and the sheer honed instinct of the experienced and trusted police officer in solving crime is still very important in this country.

The police relationship with the community must be correct. Several noble Lords made that point. A police officer is, of course, in his service vertically accountable within the force, but he is also horizontally accountable to the public. He meets the public face to face and there is an unspoken accountability there. The public rightly want a police force which is approachable, visible and whose presence delivers security and succour to the community.

We must remember that crime does not happen uniformly. The everyday pattern or method of crime is different in an urban area from areas such as the one where I live, a rural area. The vast proportion of crime is essentially local in character. That is what affects the daily lives of people in this country, even though in an area like mine, mid-Wales, 40 per cent. of the crime is now committed by travelling criminals from relatively distant conurbations. Many of them live by crime. Incidentally, more than 60 per cent of the crime in this country is committed by 7 per cent. of offenders. I am extremely optimistic about the eventual power of the police to overcome modern problems with modern aids, but it is my belief that in the future more and more of the persistent criminals will be apprehended. The greatest deterrent to the commission of crime is the fear of apprehension. Such activities will also eventually prove to be not worth the candle in many respects, and that is another effective deterrent.

We need a combination, surely, of the most modern techniques and aids, together with well tried methods of securing public support for the functioning of the police, rooted in the old Dixon of Dock Green era, brought up to date. That relationship between that officer as presented and his community was a lesson that we should not forget.

Community conscious and community supported police are better agents of a sensible policy for restoring a belief in law and order than all the sabre-rattling and threatening propaganda of endless imprisonment, although for some endless imprisonment is inevitable. I remember when the punishment of preventive detention was introduced post-war in this country. It proved eventually to be a great failure. I entirely agree with those speakers who said that the Government should encourage much greater co-operation between education authorities, medical authorities and television authorities and with local government and parents etc. in order to have the broadest possible approach to make crime increasingly unfashionable and rare.

Let me take your Lordships over to New York for a moment. I have recently read several articles about the success of the Commissioner of Police in New York. He seems to have founded his policy on effectively stamping out local minor crime, on the basis that if local petty crime is not tolerated, it is not allowed to escalate into a climate for more serious offences. If community values are allowed to be destroyed by petty criminals who get away with their crimes, one undermines the necessary faith which must exist between the police and that community. The New York police chief has transformed a city which was regarded as having one of the worst crime records in the United States into a city with a very much lower serious crime rate because he has tackled first crime at the community level.

In my area the police have also believed in having local beat officers to tackle minor misdemeanours. I think that is very important. If we allow the breakdown of community values and a diminution in community pride, we pave the way for a more lawless society.

I want to express a few of my other concerns as we have a little time in hand. In my view there is too much power of direction centralised in the Home Secretary. I do not believe in such highly centralised control. We could do with less central control and direction. In business there is at times an increased tendency to centralise and when that is found not to work, one must then decentralise. There is also far too much bureaucracy and, consequently, far too heavy a workload on police officers, so that they spend more time on bureaucratic activities rather than policing. That could be relieved a good deal.

Few speakers have mentioned drugs. It is very important that the police should be allowed, through the Police Foundation and assisted by the Home Office, to go abroad to study other countries in Europe—not so much the United States, but countries in Europe where there are two different and conflicting methods of dealing with the drug problem: for example, the soft approach in the Netherlands and the much tougher approach in France, Germany and elsewhere. Certainly, we should send officers there to study and to pool their experience, and eventually we should decide on the best approach in this country.

I entirely agree with the point made that there are too many private security forces in this country which are at the moment completely uncontrolled.

The noble Lord, Lord Knights, referred to the Select Committee report which recommended regulation of the manned guarding industry, including individual vetting and minimum training requirements. I wonder whether the noble Baroness is in a position today to tell us the reaction of the Government to that recommendation.

Lastly, I believe that there is great scope for the development of the special constabulary. The police need help in the community. Just as the Territorial Army was a marvellous adjunct of the Regular Army, so in our country we need responsible citizens at all levels to be encouraged to become special constables. A great deal of support should be given to that objective.

Perhaps I may raise just one further query. There is a danger of the national crime squad being used as a means of further centralisation. I do not believe that it is necessary but perhaps one will monitor carefully that development. Although the pooling of information is important, it must not be used as an instrument to undermine local control.

4.45 p.m.

My Lords, I am sure that we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kingsland, for introducing this interesting debate. It seems to me that two quite clear themes have emerged during the course of the debate. One is that there has been too much emphasis on the role of the police service as a crime-fighting organisation. Its roles in public tranquillity and crime prevention, as my colleague the noble Lord, Lord Knights, said, have been an important historical part of the work of the police and in fact consume far more time than their attempts to reduce crime or catch criminals.

The other theme was introduced in a very interesting maiden speech by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle; namely, the importance of local partnership. Most police activity is based locally and it is important to work with other organisations at that level in society.

Owing to the way in which the police service is portrayed in the media, most people tend to see it in its exciting, dramatic and crime-chasing mode. Fictional television programmes such as "The Bill" and factual programmes, such as "Crimewatch", mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharples, have tended to form the public perception and, to some extent, I think regrettably, the perception of politicians that the role of the police service is entirely to be out there chasing in an exciting way, swooping on robberies and so on.

Therefore, the measurement of police success or failure has tended to focus entirely on crime detection, clear-up rates, arrests and so on.

In consequence, there has been what the noble Lord, Lord Norton, referred to in his interesting maiden speech: namely, the importation of business-speak into descriptions of police work. So there is not only a tendency to talk about "customers" but also an attempt to measure police work with performance indicators, which almost entirely rely on things which can be counted and measured, such as response times, clear-up rates and arrests. There has been neglect of the much more subtle role of the police service in acting as a reinforcing agency in local networks, local communities and so on, which I see as a very much more important part of the police role. Just like the Church, one of the few clear permanent features of a local community very often is the police service with the local police officer. In an increasingly fragmented and uncertain world, that provides some sense of continuity and of what society will tolerate.

As we heard, only 20 per cent. of police work is directly concerned with crime. In that context, it is particularly refreshing to read the two latest documents about the police service, which paint the much broader picture. The Audit Commission's most recent report, called Streetwise, looks at effective police patrol and attempts to discover what the public would like to see in the attempt to provide a sense of security in their neighbourhoods. In fact, it reflects some of the elements that we tried to introduce into the Metropolitan Police some 10 years ago, when I was responsible for some of the forward-looking projects under Sir Kenneth Newman—things such as graded response, crime pattern analysis and the attempt to match police responses to demand, all within the context of local police patrolling and the attempt to have a local policing system which reflects what people would like to see within their local areas.

The other report that I read recently is the independent inquiry by the Police Foundation and the Policy Studies Institute which looked at the role and responsibilities of the police. There is a lot of common ground between those two organisations.

As we know, it is a fact that a tiny proportion of crimes result in arrests—something like only 15 per cent. of burglaries, for example. Although the Metropolitan Police has had some success lately through targeting known criminals, and produced a reduction in reported robberies and burglaries, that may be as much a matter of demographic factors as anything else. There is also the fact of the decline in reporting levels that has been apparent. The apparent diminution in crime figures may be a consequence of the recession; that is, people are less likely to be able to afford insurance on their household goods and therefore do not have to report to the police when they are stolen.

One should therefore be wary of crime figures. It is regrettable that they have become part of the political patball between the parties because they are insecure ground. The fact that they may have increased over the past six months should not be used as party political ammunition, though I shall be interested to hear from the Minister whether in fact there have been rises during four out of the past six months because this is an issue that has been made a matter of politics. Matters of crime, policing, crime levels and so forth should not be issues on which we differ; they should be matters on which there is joint enterprise and common ground between the parties.

Because crime forms such a small part of police duties, it is all the more important that we should regard patrolling and the prevention of crime as essential features of the police role. There are more philosophical roles of the police which are extremely important also. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle referred to the balance of liberty and responsibilities in society and the protection of the disadvantaged and minority groups as being an essential role of the police. He said that that is far more important in terms of providing a just and fair society and security for all our citizens than the attempt to catch criminals who are sometimes, I feel, rather inadequate members of society.

In that context it is extremely interesting to see that every developed industrial society in the past 50 years, except Japan, has seen a startling rise in reported crime levels. Since 1950 there has been a tenfold increase in England and Wales of notifiable offences and a 28-times increase in motor vehicle thefts. Those extraordinary rises in reported crime are the same throughout the developed industrial world, except Japan, which has remained level over the past 50 years. I believe, therefore, that it is within our own society that we should be looking at rises in crime and ways of levelling it off and reducing them. We should not make facile assumptions that the police service can make major differences to crime, or that, as the noble Lord, Lord Hooson, said, increases in the number of prisons in the Prison Service will have much effect on crime levels.

Those are the stuff of party political broadcasts and not of the social world in which people develop as criminals or develop careers in crime. They are related to social trends such as mobility, decline in social controls, levels of unemployment, new technology, the increase in material goods and therefore opportunities for committing crime, and a more acquisitive society. They are not to do necessarily, except at the margins, with the efforts of police, politicians or prisons.

The Police Foundation report, therefore, when it says that the public continue in some respects to view the role of the police as being to stem increases in crime, concludes inevitably that the public have been disappointed. The public expect the police service to do things about crime and, in certain respects, when enormous resources can be thrown at a specific crime—like, for instance, murder, where there is a 90 per cent. clear-up rate, or other crimes where large numbers of resources and police officers can be deployed—the police service can be effective. I do not believe that in relation to ordinary thefts, burglaries and so forth, there is a great deal that the police service can do, and certainly not alone.

That brings me to the other theme of this debate; that it is only where the local community combines together in various forms of partnership; where local authorities, police authorities, the Church, probation officers and other agencies combine together in partnerships that one can be effective in changing the nature of the local community and introduce social controls which affect crime levels.

In that respect I should like again to deplore the fact that, when we had the opportunity under the police Bill, we did not include crime prevention as one of the responsibilities of the newly set up police authorities. That was desperately short-sighted. Both local authorities and police authorities should have a clear responsibility for crime prevention and for being involved in partnerships with all the organisations that can provide the kind of security and local crime control that can only be achieved by communities working together with all the agencies and all the people involved in a local community.

4.55 p.m.

My Lords, this has been a relatively short but important debate. I want to open by thanking my noble friend Lord Kingsland not only for initiating this specific subject but also for the excellent way in which he presented it to the House. We have been served two quite outstanding speeches today by the noble Lord, Lord Norton, and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle. I am sure that they will enhance our proceedings greatly and we look forward to hearing their next contributions to our affairs.

My noble friend raised for debate a subject of the greatest importance. In recent years the policing of this country has been the cause of much public debate. It has also been a period of unprecedented challenge for the police as they tackle ever more highly organised and violent crime.

First, it is a core duty of any government to ensure that the police have the resources, tools and powers to meet these challenges. We must listen to what the police tell us they need to do the job. This Government have been an attentive listener. Secondly, we need to sustain the police in their traditions of public service which are greatly valued by the public and which have served us so well.

It is fitting to start a speech on the role of the police by reminding your Lordships of the scale of the demands that we as citizens place upon them. From the very early beginnings of what we would today recognise as a police service in this country, the public service ethic of the police has been defined in broad and rigorous terms. Every police officer is still required by law to make an important declaration before taking office. The declaration requires that every police officer will truly serve without favour or affection, malice or ill-will; that he will to the best of his power cause the peace to be kept and preserved; and prevent all offences against the persons and properties of Her Majesty's subjects, faithfully according to law. That is a challenge by any standards.

In this country we require that policing should be by consent. The police therefore must be responsive to what the public wants. And what the public wants is visible assurance that the preservation of peace and good order is in safe hands. In practice, that means that we expect a service from our police officers that goes wider than fighting crime and law enforcement. We regard them as an emergency service of last resort. At the same time we expect the police to mobilise themselves effectively against sophisticated crime which increasingly transcends force or even national boundaries. In addition, we expect them to play a part in crime prevention work, which, as my noble friend Lord Gisborough said, is an important dimension. A tall order indeed.

We expect, and receive, the very highest standards of service from our police. It is our duty to ensure that they remain equipped to deal with the increasingly challenging demands placed upon them as we move into the next millennium.

What are the Government doing to support our police service and help them meet the demanding expectations we have of them? First, we must ensure that the police have the resources to do their job. Since this Government took office, police expenditure has increased in real terms by 100 per cent. In 1996–97, the money for spending on the police will total over £7 billion; 1996 will show an increase of 16,000 police officers since 1979; and we will provide the resources for 5,000 extra police officers over the next three years. We are also providing £10 million of new money for special constables.

We are embarked on an unprecedented programme of technological advance to support the investigation of crime and free the police of unnecessary and burdensome paperwork. The national DNA database, which went live in April 1995, is the first of its kind in the world. It is already notching up important successes in matching suspects to crimes and crimes to each other. The new Police Information and Technology Organisation which we have established and our national strategy for information systems bring the police into the centre of decision-making about the technology they need and are designed to produce compatible systems to reduce paperwork, improve effectiveness and provide the police with better value for money. We are investing £8 million to upgrade the police national computer.

The police have a right to expect that they are properly protected for the difficult and sometimes dangerous job they do. The Home Secretary fully supported the introduction by the police of the new batons which provide officers with greater protection and confidence to carry out their duties effectively. He has also supported the trials of CS gas currently being organised by the Association of Chief Police Officers. We are supporting a range of proposals in the Offensive Weapons Bill aimed at combating the menace of knife carrying. The national firearms amnesty, recently announced by the Home Secretary, has been strongly supported by the police. We have listened to police advice about the importance of closed circuit television as a weapon in the detection, investigation and prosecution of crime. We are investing £45 million over the next three years in closed circuit television, a point that was welcomed by my noble friend Lady Sharpies.

We have looked at the way the criminal justice system imposes unnecessary burdens on the police. The Criminal Procedure and Investigations Bill, which has now passed to another place, is designed to provide a scheme which reduces the unnecessary burdens of the current disclosure requirements while not denying the defendant access to material he needs. The Bill aims to reduce the reams of paper that the police have to supply for the defence and narrows the issues in dispute before the trial. It is also designed to protect sensitive material, such as the identity of police informants, more effectively than at present.

Police officers said time and again that hardened criminals were refusing to answer questions which were put to them, only to ambush the prosecution at the trial. We changed the law so that if the defendant exercises his right of silence, then the courts have the right to know. That is only fair and allows the courts to draw their own conclusions, rather than being prevented from making such commonsense judgments.

We believe that forces should be free to manage the resources they have in a way which best meets local policing needs. Central government no longer determine what the number of police officers—the "establishment"—in forces should be, nor will they allocate funding on that basis. Funding is now distributed in accordance with a formula based on relative policing needs. Similarly, we will be withdrawing detailed controls on capital expenditure. And chief officers now have management of their civilian employees.

The Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994 reinforces the accountability of the police to the local community which they serve. For the first time, police authorities are required to publish an annual police plan drafted by the chief constable, on which they must consult the local community. The plan must be followed by a published annual report containing an assessment of how far the policing plan has been fulfilled.

The new, free-standing police authorities created by the 1994 Act will be leaner, fitter decision-making bodies with greater freedom to serve the needs of the community. With the introduction of independent members they are able to represent a broader cross-section of the community. Magistrate members continue their valuable role. But locally elected councillors continue to play an important part in the management of local policing since they form the majority of the membership.

We therefore have an effective framework within which the police can do their work while continuing to ensure that they answer to us, the public, for how they do it.

I shall obviously not be able to address all the points that were raised in the debate but I shall select a number of them. My noble friend Lord Kingsland and many other noble Lords referred to the issue of performance indicators. The Government, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, the police service and others involved in policing all recognise that performance indicators provide a partial picture of policing. They look at some of the more important areas which are of particular concern to the public. The important message is that it is only a partial picture. The method of measurement must be rigorous so that performance can be viewed across the years. That is why guidance is issued by the inspectorate, by the Association of Chief Police Officers and by the Audit Commission to that end.

My noble friend Lord Kingsland was concerned that police authorities should not meddle in operational policing. I can assure him that chief police officers retain full operational independence in policing matters. Nothing in the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994 changes that. My noble friend went on to mention the valuable role of special constables. I agree with that. We want more specials, no matter how many regular officers there are. Specials are volunteers who work when they can and could never replace full-time regular officers. But they can and do add to and assist the efforts of regulars.

The costs involved in having specials are relatively small and there is enough money in police budgets to allow chief officers to support them. The Government have found an extra £10 million to offer forces, mostly as a challenge fund, to take more specials on board and to make arrangements for bringing specials up to date. The extra money is not a continuing commitment and could not benefit the regular force in a significant way. Separate money has been found to recruit the 5,000 more regular officers over three years and a working group set up by the Home Office is near the end of a thorough review of all aspects of special constabulary service.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle, in what I have already said was an excellent maiden speech, mentioned the death of Stephen Lawrence. Any shortening of a young person's life is tragic, but it is doubly so in the case of Stephen Lawrence, when simply the colour of his skin seems to have provoked his murder and when his family have not yet had the comfort of seeing his alleged killers brought to justice. My heart goes out to Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence and the rest of Stephen's family and I welcome the right reverend Prelate's remark about the role of the police in this case. I also share the right reverend Prelate's sadness at the tragic event this week in Corby where Louise Allen was murdered. Having lost a 14 year-old son myself, but in very different circumstances, I can only say that the pain of adjusting to the loss of their daughter will go very deep indeed. Our thoughts and our prayers are with the family at this time.

The noble Lord, Lord Norton, referred in his excellent speech to training. I fully endorse the remarks made by my noble friend Lord Kingsland about the importance of police training. In recognition of the central importance of police training we have established in the Home Office a national directorate of police training to develop a national training strategy.

My noble friend Lord Bethell referred to the Britishness of our police forces and introduced internationalism into the debate. I found his remarks very interesting. In these days of organised international crime, co-operation between countries is vital and in particular the sharing of expertise and information. I can assure my noble friend that the uniquely British characteristics of our police service, locally based, with policing by consent, will continue to play an enduring role at the heart of our police service. My noble friend posed a question about extending the ethos and effect of the British Bobby beyond our shores. I need to understand more fully the question posed by my noble friend before responding. I shall read Hansard very carefully to recap on what he had to say on this subject.

The noble Lord, Lord Norton, mentioned the charter principles. I welcome his view that these principles should be stressed in police training, but they are also important principles for every individual police officer to observe throughout his or her career. I agree with the noble Lord's comments about the importance of stability and rigorous analysis producing long-term solutions to long-term problems. That is why we believe that the key performance indicators should not be changed with every tide of fashion or trend.

The noble Lord, Lord Norton, again raised the magnitude of the crime of fraud and questioned its absence from the performance indicators. I believe that we were all shocked by some of the statistics that he gave in his speech. The performance indicators are relatively new; they relate to the main tasks that the police should be tackling as matters of priority across England and Wales. Fraud, of course, is taken very seriously. I know that the speech of the noble Lord will be read most carefully both in the Home Office and by the police service itself.

Many noble Lords have mentioned the number of crimes recorded by the police. The recording of crimes by the police is governed by detailed Home Office instructions that deal with the recording process and the counting of offences. These instructions provide the basis for a constant series of recorded crime statistics for England and Wales. When carrying out force inspections Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary looks carefully at how forces record crime. If it seems that crimes are being wrongly recorded, the inspectorate will ask forces for an audit and advise accordingly. However, unless crimes are reported, they cannot be recorded, and that is why it is so important that the victims of crime report such incidents to the police. I remind noble Lords that the British Crime Survey and the police recorded crime figures are two different exercises. One is a victim survey from which estimated figures are derived. The other represents incidents reported to the police. It is quite interesting that given that car crimes form a very large proportion of crime, we know it to be the case that the most readily reported and most readily recorded crime is that of car-related crime.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester made a very interesting speech in referring to the co-operation between the police and the chaplaincy. We greatly welcome his comments about the role of police chaplains and I very much endorse his views about the important contribution that they can make to the morale and well-being of the police service, as well as the links that they foster between the police and local communities. I take this opportunity to say that I for one do not look forward to the day when the right reverend Prelate falls off the end of that great Bench in this House. His contribution has been very considerable in this place and we have been enriched enormously by his presence.

My noble friend Lady Sharpies referred to identity cards. She was being rather prophetic because the Government have not yet decided whether an identity card should be introduced, and if so, what kind of card should be proposed. I hope that we shall be in a position to do so in the not too distant future. But we can look forward to hearing the views of the Home Affairs Select Committee in another place, which is expected to publish shortly a report following its inquiry into identity cards, to which I gave evidence. When I gave evidence to the committee, I made clear that none of the options contained in the Green Paper on identity cards has been ruled in or out at this stage. Although the option for a compulsory card has not been ruled out, there is a widely held view that a voluntary card could have many benefits. We know that that view is shared by the police service in its response to the Green Paper on identity cards.

The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, brought up the question of traffic police. I believe that he was rather sceptical about the priority given to it. We believe that that is not the case. The Government have the objective of reducing the number of road traffic accident casualties by one third by the year 2000. Traffic policing does have high priority with police forces in their local areas.

The noble Viscount, Lord Simon, also referred to the very important issue of victims. I fully endorse his concern that in pursuit of tackling crime we should not overlook the needs of the victims. This Government attach the highest importance to the welfare of victims and their families. The victim's information pack which we issued last year provides valuable advice to the families of murder victims. I understand that it has been very widely welcomed. Our recent reviews of the task that the police perform have paid special regard to the need for care and sensitivity in dealing with vulnerable victims as their cases progress through the criminal justice system and to the use of Victim Support, which does impressive work and which complements the work of the police and is well supported by the Government.

My noble friend Lord Milverton referred to the partnership between the public, Victim Support, the police and all the agencies working together and, indeed, the importance of partnership. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Chester also asked about the national crime squad. This proposal is being discussed with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the police authorities through their representatives. A new national crime squad would build on the success of the regional crime squads, ensuring that there is an adequate national response to organised crime. The new squad will not be a British FBI. Local police forces will remain the primary focus of policing in the United Kingdom. The intention is to introduce any legislation to establish a national crime squad at the earliest opportunity.

The noble Lord, Lord Knights, who again speaks with great experience on matters concerning the police, asked about the Police Foundation Report. The report by the Cassel's Committee, which comes from a body independent of government, will no doubt contribute to the continuing debate on policing. Its publication in the wake of the parallel report by the Audit Commission is timely. I was pleased to see that the proposal for a two-tier police service contained in the original discussion document did not figure in the final report. I emphasise at this point that this Government support the present organisation of the British police service of regulars and specials.

The report contains support for many of the reforms enacted in the Police and Magistrates' Courts Act 1994 such as local policing plans and consultation which is welcomed. Its recommendations will be considered very seriously along with those coming from the other recent report on patrolling from the Audit Commission.

The noble Lord, Lord Hooson, introduced European comparisons. I was slightly disappointed about their use. The problem with them is that they compare apples with pears. Police forces in Europe often perform functions which are not carried out by the police in England and Wales. An example of that is the immigration authorities. Immigration duties are carried out separately in this country. The Government have a proud record on providing the right resources to our policing service.

The noble Lord also asked a straight question about the Government's view on the report of the Home Affairs Select Committee on the regulation of the private security industry. We have responded to many of the recommendations made by the Select Committee. We are now looking in detail at possible ways of tackling the problem identified in the guarding sector and we shall reply as soon as possible.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hilton, welcomed the report from the Audit Commission, Streetwise. It rightly makes a number of recommendations which it directs not only at the Home Office but also at police authorities, forces and the public. Many of these recommendations cover areas within which we are already very active; for example, the continuing role of special constables and the contribution played by CCTV. All these recommendations are being considered by the Government together with the police and other key groups like the police authorities.

Due to the constraints of time, it is not possible to continue this debate further, so I apologise for any points that I have missed in the course of responding to it. I record again my thanks to my noble friend Lord Kingsland for initiating the debate. It has given us an opportunity to examine the role of the police in modern British society. The first duty of government is to maintain law and order; to protect people's freedom to sleep safely in their homes and to walk safely on the streets. The police are at the forefront of the fight against crime and this Government are backing them every inch of the way. Day in and day out they put their lives on the wire so that we can all live safely. They do a fantastic job and they deserve our wholehearted support.

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to the debate, which I hope all of your Lordships will agree has been most fruitful. I looked forward greatly to the maiden speeches of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Carlisle and the noble Lord, Lord Norton, and I can now look back on them with great pleasure. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

Bse (Agriculture)

5.20 p.m.

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should now like to repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. The Statement is as follows:

"Madam Speaker, with permission, I would like to make a Statement about the meeting of the Agriculture Council which finished yesterday evening. I represented the United Kingdom assisted by my noble friends the Parliamentary Under-Secretaries at the Scottish and Northern Ireland Offices and by my honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Welsh Office.

"The Council discussed the reform of the Community fruit and vegetables regime and the Commission's proposals for this year's farm price fixing. Both are important matters and I set out the United Kingdom position on the lines I have explained to the House on many occasions.

"The Council also discussed BSE. I put before the Council a dossier of information setting out the measures the UK has taken. I shall place a copy of that dossier in the Library of the House. My first objective at the Council was naturally to achieve action on the export ban. Progress was made on this and the conclusions of the Council explicitly recognise that the ban is temporary. They also recognise that the measures already put in place and foreseen form, and I quote, 'part of a process which should allow the export ban to be progressively lifted on a step by step basis'.

"In addition, the Council has recognised that the lifting of the ban in respect of tallow, gelatine and semen should be addressed in the Standing Veterinary Committee shortly. As the House knows, the relevant decisions are taken by qualified majority vote in the Standing Veterinary Committee, not in the Council. The next meeting of the Standing Veterinary Committee takes place next week.

"Nevertheless, this welcome progress should not obscure the fact that the ban is disproportionate and unjustified. Accordingly, I made it clear to the Council and recorded in a formal UK statement that on the basis of the scientific evidence available there should be an early and complete lifting of the ban.

"Accordingly, we are proceeding with our application to have the ban set aside by the European Court of Justice under Article 173 of the treaty. Our application is in an advanced stage of preparation and will be lodged very shortly. The House will also know that the National Farmers Union has been granted leave to seek judicial review of the export ban and I understand that the matter is expected to be referred to the ECJ on 3rd May.

"I turn now to the selective cull. The Council accepted that the proposals I have put forward involving the culling by farm of birth of age cohorts born after September 1990 in which there have been cases of BSE were very much in the right direction. It was also agreed that it would be helpful to investigate whether additional measures targeted on herds where there had been many cases of BSE would be justified. This is a point which is obviously worth careful consideration, and my officials will be entering into technical discussions on this shortly. It is, however, already clear that should we proceed with a cull, the scheme we have put forward will form the major component of any such policy and that the scale of any measure finally put in place will be very much on the lines I have already indicated to the House.

"Finally, I turn to the link between a lifting of the ban and the selective cull. The Government's position remains as it has always been. The two must proceed in parallel.

"As regards the beef market, I am glad to say that the partial recovery has continued. Consumption is now at some 80 per cent. of pre-crisis levels for good quality cuts and average market prices are 109p. per kilo compared to 120p. per kilo before the crisis. The scheme for the slaughter of male calves has been operational from 22nd April and the scheme for the disposal of cattle over 30 months at the end of their working lives will start operation tomorrow. This follows a decision of the Management Committee on 26th April when, on our proposal, specific provision was made for payments to be made on a deadweight as well as a liveweight basis. This follows strong representations from the farming unions.

"Madam Speaker, I know that many Members and their constituents are concerned about how this scheme—I shall call it the 30-month slaughter scheme—will work in practice. The first point is that the scheme is now launched. The first cattle are likely to be processed tomorrow. Over 60 abattoirs and 80 markets across the UK will act as collection centres. Farmers will be anxious to have the finalised details. We shall be sending direct to farmers a note setting out all they need to know about the new arrangements.

"So, Madam Speaker, I would summarise the position thus. In our view the ban that has been imposed by the European Union is unjustified and should be removed. The conclusions arrived at yesterday have established a process which could achieve this. I very much hope that the Commission and all member states will play a full and active part in resolving this grave and urgent problem."

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

5.25 p.m.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made in another place by his right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I declare an interest. I am involved in the dairy sector.

Given the title of the Statement, "The Outcome of the Council of Ministers", one is tempted to ask what the outcome was and, indeed, whether there is any real progress to report. We welcome the confirmation that the export ban is temporary. According to the Statement, it will be lifted "progressively". Can the Minister give some idea—any idea at all—of the likely timescale? How progressive will the lifting of the so-called "temporary" ban be? What stages will be involved? How long will it all take?

We also welcome the Minister's reference to the Government's intention to go ahead with a legal challenge to the ban under Article 173 of the treaty. Can the Minister say when that will be lodged? He said that it would be done shortly. Article 173 allows the Court of Justice to review the legality of acts of the Council and the Commission. However, perhaps I may draw the Minister's attention to Article 186, which states:
"The Court of Justice may in any cases before it prescribe any necessary interim measures".
That point was made on an earlier Statement by my noble friend Lord Mishcon. Is anything resembling an injunction open to the European Court of Justice? Is there any temporary relief that we could plead under Article 186 of the treaty?

I turn now to the selective cull which was first described last week. I hope that the Minister will understand that there will be great uncertainty in the farming industry. As I understand it, the selective cull is not to be imposed until there is some sign of a lifting of the ban. That means that all those farms that know that they might be subject to the selective cull are in limbo. They are not at all sure what will happen. Cohort farms do not know whether they can sell any cattle. There will be a great deal of uncertainty on those farms.

Furthermore, if farms which are outside the selective slaughter scheme and farms which have had cases of BSE involving animals born before September 1990 were now to have just one case of BSE involving an animal born after September 1990, such farms would now have to slaughter all the other animals born in that year inside the herd as milking animals. I hope that the Government will understand that compensation must be generous to such farmers if there is not to be a perverse incentive to try to hide such a single case.

On the scale of the selective slaughter, perhaps I may repeat the Statement, which states that,
"the scale of any measure finally put in place will be very much on the lines I have already indicated to the House".
That can only mean that the Government are thinking of the order of the 40,000 cattle mentioned originally. It would be helpful if the Minister could confirm that.

I am afraid that, as we said last week on the previous Statement, we are now in a numbers game. The Council of Ministers will be trying to ratchet up the numbers for each concession. I fear that because of the approach they have adopted the Government are now in a very weak negotiating position.

The Government have said that the lifting of the ban and the selective cull have to proceed in parallel. It is hard to understand how that can happen. How can one have a partial selective cull and a partial lifting of the ban? It seems to me that the Statement does not add up.

I return to the 30-month scheme which, I understand, starts tomorrow. Is the Minister aware of the reaction of a number of substantial retailers who have said that they are not prepared to buy beef from slaughterhouses which are engaged in the 30-month scheme? Even though slaughtering takes place only on certain days or on certain lines, they will refuse to buy beef from those slaughterhouses because of the risk of cross-infection. If the Government are aware of this, I shall be interested to hear their reactions. Can the Minister say how far the Government have gone with the exemption scheme? It is important that those producers who produce clean beef from animals over 30 months of age know where they are. We know that these animals are stacking up in the supply chain and that forage stocks are nearly gone. Those farms face a serious problem. The introduction of the selective slaughter scheme and the way that it has been devised means that the Government agree—as the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, said last week—that the feed ban was transgressed either on farms or in feed mills, or both. My honourable friend Dr. Gavin Strang, the spokesman in the other place, has asked the Government whether they will institute an inquiry into the matter. If the Government are aware that the feed ban has been transgressed—they have admitted it—will they be prepared to consider prosecutions?

I turn to the statement of the Council itself, which is quite worrying. Reference is made to the extension of the selective slaughter scheme. The Government have said that it will be on the same scale as already mentioned. However, the Council say:
"The Council has however noted the case for strengthening the programme, through additional measures particularly targeted on herds where a significant number of cases of BSE has been detected. This should contribute to a more substantial and rapid reduction in the incidence of BSE. To this end, the Council has invited the Commission to further investigate with the UK delegation these additional measures within the Standing Veterinary Committee together with Member States' veterinary experts".
It is clear that the Council is building these additional measures, which are not defined, into the lifting of the ban. Perhaps the Minister can tell us the scale of the additional measures that may be required. It is extremely worrying. We all agree that the selective slaughter scheme is itself unjustified on scientific grounds, but it is clear that the Council expects the extension of the selective scheme to be central to the lifting of the ban. It would be interesting to know details of the Portuguese scheme for the complete eradication of BSE, which is also mentioned in the Statement.

The Council also has proposals for what it calls a holistic approach to research into both BSE and CJD. I hope that this is not simply a delaying tactic. I appeal to the Minister to ensure that the Government adopt a new approach to research and development in this area. It must have occurred to the Government that the short-term contracts encouraged by the Government cannot be beneficial to the crucial work that is being done into BSE, CJD or any other research area. Does the Minister agree that the prior options programme for the selling off of our research establishments must now be abandoned? The units which are investigating BSE and CJD should not be subject to all the uncertainty and upheaval that the prior option scheme entails. BSE and CJD will be with us for a number of years. Long-term research needs to be done by scientists in the public sector who do not have to spend their time looking for their next jobs.

To conclude, we certainly support the Government in seeking an end to the export ban and restoring consumer confidence, but we fear that this crisis will be with us and the industry for a long time yet.

My Lords, I too thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. The Statement says that the ban is disproportionate and unjustified. I agree. I do not believe that we should get carried away. It is certainly unjustified in terms of scientific proof, but it is perfectly understandable bearing in mind the panic that we got ourselves into over the Statement, which was not cleared up until well into the weekend. In particular, the German reaction is very understandable. The Minister says in the Statement that home consumption has recovered to 85 per cent. I understand that German consumption is down by 50 per cent. I believe that all talk of retaliation and shouting should be greatly discouraged. I know that the Minister is not talking like that, but certain members of the Conservative Party are. That cannot help in any way.

I understand that an appeal to the European Court of Justice is to be lodged shortly. I ask the Minister how it is that the National Farmers Union has already put in a plea which is expected to be referred to the European Court of Justice on 3rd May? It appears to me that the NFU was slightly smarter than the Ministry of Agriculture.

I deal next with culling. I object to the business of age cohorts. I would have thought that "generations of calves" would be more understandable than "age cohorts". No doubt the Minister understands it perfectly. Does it mean that if a farmer is shown to have a big percentage of BSE the whole of that age may well be slaughtered as a selective cull? The Scottish Office said in a statement that the culling of whole herds implied that BSE was transmitted from animal to animal whereas all of the available evidence was that that was not happening. But the statement added, "or not at any significant level". I would have thought that if it occurred in any herd there would be a case for the culling of that herd on the French scale, or of that particular generation. I know that the Minister has been deeply involved in this matter. Perhaps he can provide more details as to how it will happen, because it is enormously important to farmers all over the country.

We keep using language such as "step by step" and "Should we proceed with the cull?" That does not give a good indication of our intention. If we believe that the cull will help us it does not matter what the Europeans say. We should proceed with that level of culling which we believe will help to eradicate the disease or concern.

It is gratifying that average prices in the beef market are as much as 109 pence per kilo, compared with 120p. Perhaps the Minister will reassure the House that there will be a top-up scheme for animals which are slaughtered under the scheme to bring the price up to where it was before the crisis. Perhaps he will confirm that the Government have abandoned the poor devils who had to sell their animals at 80p. or 90p. per kilo in the run-up to the scare.

The next matter is a very important point, certainly to a number of farmers in Scotland. I refer to the question of how to assess an animal of 36 months. Has the two broad teeth level been abandoned and the more sensible four broad teeth level been brought in? Referring to Galloway, Welsh Black and Highland cattle, which do not mature until they are three years, do the Government have any scheme to ensure that this admirable beef is allowed into the market and is not rendered for some impossible purpose?

Things appear to be moving a little, but they are not moving fast enough. The Minister should give assurances to British farmers that there will be a British scheme which does not depend upon negotiations. If we do that, in my view and that of many people, it will have far more effect on the Council of Ministers than if we say, "We will do a culling if you agree to lift the ban".

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Carter, asked about the timescale of the ECJ action. As I said in the Statement, the matter will be lodged shortly. We are looking at all the legal options in terms of the main 173 action, the injunctions, and the interim verdicts which are available via other routes. It is important that we get the right application in as soon as we can. The work of the lawyers is being done as fast and as comprehensively as possible. We want to ensure that we get this one right.

The noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, pointed out that the farmers were ahead of us in their action. The two actions are different. The farmers' case has been somewhat more straightforward to prepare.

On the selective cull, the noble Lord, Lord Carter, asked what scale we might be moving on to and if any change were contemplated. I repeat the assurances we have repeatedly given. We are talking about tens of thousands of cattle rather than the hundreds of thousands or millions of cattle that were being bandied around by some commentators. We are determined to be guided by the veterinary scientists and the views of the farming industry. We must of course seek approval from Parliament on the issue. There are some strong factors which we must take into account when forming any final view.

The compensation involved will be generous, especially at a time of uncertain beef markets. There will be no incentive for farmers to rid themselves of beasts on the basis that they might obtain a better return. Even if the beasts that later turn out to be eligible for selective cull are moved off farms, the paper work now available will enable us to trace those beasts in order to deal with them.

The approach we have adopted has been guided by our own veterinary scientists. One of the encouraging points at the Council of Ministers was that the Commission itself described our proposal as logical and rational. It went on to say that its own vets could not think of a more credible scheme. We felt that we were working in the right direction. As to proceeding in parallel, it is important that a gesture such as this, which is not necessary in terms of the advice we have received from SEAC but which will, nevertheless, accelerate the decline in the incidence of BSE, is linked to the lifting of the ban, especially as the ban is so disproportionate and unjustified.

The fact that some retailers may not want to buy from plants which are also in the culled-cow programme is a decision which is entirely up to them. We shall stipulate that there is a clear separation, in time and space within the slaughterhouses and the lairage, between beef that comes from animals aged under 30 months and meat coming from animals aged over 30 months which is destined for disposal. We expect that in most cases that separate days will be allocated to the different duties should single slaughterhouses be operating in both markets. It is also likely that some slaughterhouses will specialise in one programme or another.

I shall write to the noble Lord, Lord Carter, about the Portuguese scheme for eradicating BSE. The Commission is aware of it, but few other members of the EU are. We believe that it will be passed on to us.

On exemptions, which are important and logical in every way, we are making good progress. We are consulting. We believe that the prospects are hopeful, in that the Commission is anticipating an application for such exemptions.

In terms of the R&D programme, we have had, and continue to have, a substantial programme which is run through MAFF. The MAFF research budgets for this financial year amount to £121 million. Spending on BSE research has increased by nearly 20 per cent.

The noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, made a somewhat strange suggestion when he said that the ban was not justified in terms of the scientific advice but might be justified in terms of reaction by consumers.

My Lords, with respect, I said that it was understandable.

The Earl of Lindsay: My Lords, I do not understand that at all. It was the ban itself that helped provoke the depth of reaction. There may have been consumers in other countries who saw this as just a foreign news story until the European Commission suddenly decided that a world-wide ban was justified, despite a lack of scientific evidence. That made them think that there may have been more to the story than met their eyes. I believe that the ban remains unjustified by any yardstick.

With regard to the Scottish Office document, which refers to transmission not occurring between animals or not at any significant level, we are back in the realms of the oblique language used by scientists in proving a negative. There is no evidence of transmission between animals through contagion or genetically from mothers to daughters. But if one asks scientists to prove a negative absolutely, they usually come up with remarks which involve phrases such as, "not at any significant level", just because they cannot prove the negative.

The noble Lord, Lord Mackie, said that if the cull might be justified anyway, why bother to link it to the raising of the ban. The point I made to the noble Lord, Lord Carter, is vital here. As the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, comes from Scotland, I shall give him the relevant Scottish figures. In 1993, 2,300 cases of BSE were recorded; in 1994 they had dropped to just over 1,000; and in 1995 they had dropped to 600. This year we anticipate a figure of about 300. The decline in incidence is fast and dramatic. The cull will merely accelerate that already fast decline. That is why we believe that if we are to make the additional effort it will be legitimate that the ban be lifted.

Finally, I can assure the noble Lord that the top-up scheme will continue to operate. We recognise that there are steers and heifers which command a value well above the cull-cow main compensation value. We shall continue to recognise that.

My Lords, before the Minister sits down, he did not answer my question about intervention. Will it continue, because there are 60,000 animals stacked up? Are we going to have intervention to assist with the quick disposal and clearing of markets? I may have forgotten to ask that question.

My Lords, I shall check Hansard because I have no memory of being asked about intervention. The scheme will continue. Since 20th March we have on two separate occasions made the entire intervention package significantly more attractive to the UK industry.

5.50 p.m.

My Lords, can my noble friend say when the hearing of the motion to quash the ban is likely to begin in the European Court? In addition, is it possible to give an estimate of how long the procedure of that court will cause the hearing to continue and to say when we can expect a decision? Perhaps one is a little cynical about whether the Court is likely to proceed expeditiously, but I should be glad to hear what the Government believe to be the likely timetable for the hearing of the motion.

Secondly, can my noble friend be more precise about the likely size of the cull? He used the expression "tens of thousands", which he will agree is not a statement of precision. Can he give some idea, however approximate, of the scale of the cull and therefore of the direct cost of this unfortunate event to the British economy?

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for asking those two questions. As regards the legal timetable, we are convinced that we have right on our side and therefore we are pressing for the fastest possible track. A number of options will be weighed up as and when we reach them; for instance, whether interim judgments are sought en route. We are talking about a matter of days before our application is lodged and therefore of a number of weeks before the action will start.

As regards the cull, the proposal that we have lodged, and which is out to consultation with appropriate groups in this country, will involve a cull of about 42,000 animals. Perhaps I may remind the House that there are about 12 million cattle in this country and therefore the number involved is small. The cull is targeted at the group of cattle believed to be at highest risk of contracting BSE.

The suggestions which may well be made to us by EC vets and by vets in other countries will be worth looking at. We will consider them but I repeat the assurances that I gave to the noble Lords, Lord Carter and Lord Mackie, that parliamentary approval will be needed for any such programme. We will want the support of our fanning industry in any such programme and we want the UK veterinary community to support it. At the end of the day, I do not believe that this House or another place will back such a programme if it is seen to be disproportionate to the benefit it brings.

My Lords, perhaps I may press the Minister further on the legal aspects of the matter which were brought forward by his noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter. May we take it that the application to the European Court will be for a declaration that the particular decision is null and void? Alternatively, is the application to have an interim injunction disposed, or for such relief as the Court may think fit? We need to know the kind of sting and will that lie behind what the Government propose to do.

I presume that in the most likely event the decision is manifestly null and void. Indeed, on the face of it that is so. Is it the Government's intention to proceed for an action for damages in view of the fact that the Commission's decision is entirely illegal? It is based on illegality not only as regards the treaties but as regards the Council directives which are referred to in it. Can the Minister ensure the House that the Government's attitude towards this matter is robust because it is intolerable that a non-elected Commission is entitled to issue an instruction affecting a sovereign state for which there is no legal foundation whatever?

My Lords, I can assure the House and the noble Lord, Lord Bruce, that we will be very robust on the matter. We believe that the most intolerable aspect is that the ban is completely unjustified and disproportionate and in many senses ludicrous. There is no scientific evidence on which to base the ban which has been imposed upon us.

The question of whether we are seeking interim relief and any of the other options that the noble Lord outlined will become clear over a short timescale when the action is initiated.

My Lords, I wish to declare an interest as a farmer. I hope that my noble friend realises the vital importance of producing a timetable as soon as possible and of clarifying the type of cull that will take place. I believe that we are importing meat from the Argentine, among other countries. Can my noble friend tell the House how carefully inspected is the meat and how carefully it is slaughtered? Is it slaughtered, graded, inspected and kept as in the United Kingdom?

My Lords, I can assure my noble friend Lord Stanley that the meat imported from countries such as the Argentine is inspected in the normal and rigorous way in which we inspect all imported foodstuffs. We have strict criteria with which all foodstuffs must comply. Perhaps I may remind the House that imported meat comes from countries such as the Argentine which are BSE free; they have no record of the disease. Meat imported from countries which have had instances of BSE can come only from animals under 30 months of age.

As regards the timetable which I outlined in a broad format for my noble friend, all farmers will receive the information directly from the Government about the exact details of the programmes. Furthermore, across the United Kingdom advertisements will be taken in the relevant journals so that all those who need to have the information will have an adequate opportunity to obtain it.

My Lords, I declare an interest as a dairy farmer. Perhaps I may ask the Minister two questions? First, can he give any indication of when the export of cattle for breeding purposes to non-European Union countries will be allowed again? Secondly, can he tell us what studies are being undertaken of the geographical distribution of BSE? Is not that matter extremely important and relevant to the cull?

My Lords, we would like to see as soon as possible the opportunity to export cattle for breeding purposes. There is no reason why such exports should not be taking place this very minute. There is no logic nor reason behind the ban. We will do what is best for the industry. At present it is possible that a progressive lifting of the ban will be a faster and more beneficial solution to the problem than a complete lifting in one gesture. We are pursuing all options as vigorously as possible. Given that a progressive lifting may be the most effective solution, we are about to apply for exemptions to be endorsed so enabling us to identify categories of animals which would be justified for such exemptions.

As regards the geographical distribution of BSE, scientists' knowledge of the subject is that it is almost certainly feed related. Although we have good records and have compiled them all through computers in order to indicate the spread of BSE, the main inquiry of the veterinary experts relates to the cattle which have been sharing the same feedlots rather than necessarily being geographically intimate or remote.

My Lords, it has been stated that if there is an appeal to the European Court the ban would continue to be in operation until the Court reached a decision. It has been stated further that the Court normally takes a period of months before it reaches a decision. Have the Government any reason to believe that they can obtain a decision in weeks rather than months? Will they be asking for a decision from the Court as a matter of urgency?

My Lords, we have one principal aim; that is, to bring about an early lifting of the ban. We shall pursue every conceivable route towards that objective. We shall negotiate and we shall use other methods and routes such as legal action. As I assured my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter, the opportunities which arise through the legal system for fast-track judgments or interim judgments will be considered and explored wherever that is to our advantage. We want the ban lifted as quickly as possible. That is what we are striving to do.

My Lords, first, I declare an interest as a dairy farmer. I thank my noble friend for emphasising once again that there is no scientific evidence that BSE is linked to CJD. I thank him also for pointing out that there is therefore no scientific justification for the ban in terms of human health.

Given that he referred a few moments ago to the fact that at present BSE is feed related and that it is therefore most important to eliminate that cause, what do the Government propose to do about what appears to be a loophole in the context of feed supplied to cattle still being produced from lines which could be contaminated? I have received a letter from J. Bibby Agriculture Limited dated 11th April which states:
"We stopped using SBO and Meat & Bone in our ruminant rations in June 1988. We do not have dedicated production lines, but we do operate a quality system designed to minimise cross contamination".
Do the Government believe that that is good enough? Would it not be better to introduce rules which eliminate the risk of cross-contamination?

My Lords, the recent decision to prevent the feeding of mammalian protein to any livestock on farms—and that includes horses—is designed to prevent leakage which may be occurring either on farms or in feed mills. We realise that it is within the feed industry and feed practices that, mostly unintentionally, there have been imperfections. Both with the regulations that we have introduced and with the progressive tightening of existing regulations, which we shall inspect so as to ensure compliance, we are determined to close off any possibility of continuing BSE infections from such sources. We take that very seriously indeed.

My Lords, will the Government tell us what steps will be taken to examine the brains of the animals which are being culled histologically and whether or not the findings of the histopathology will be made available to Parliament and publicly? If it is not possible to examine all the brains, will the Minister give an indication of what percentage of the brains will be examined so that we can judge the effectiveness of the cull and also how necessary the cull was? It is quite important to establish that not only for our own safety but also for our standing in Europe.

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Winston, for that question. I remind the House that in our view the ban on the consumption of meat from animals over 30 months of age is essentially temporary. The advice from SEAC was that meat from such animals should merely be deboned. But we did not have the facilities to debone overnight all the meat from such animals. Therefore, given the concern among consumers, it seemed a logical response to ban temporarily all such meat from animal and human food chains.

In relation to the random or complete testing of the brains of animals, I shall write to the noble Lord because there is a fairly complex and technical explanation as to why the experts from SEAC see that as being a wasteful use of resources. One reason I remember for that is that the symptoms which can be detected within the brain appear only three weeks before the clinical symptoms are detectable in the rest of the beast. Therefore, the ratio of contamination within the brain which can be detected from such sampling would be minute. The experts believe that that would not give any significant indications. However, I shall write to the noble Lord because there is considerable detail attached to the subject.

My Lords, the Minister highlights the problem in the answer that he gave to my noble friend Lord Winston. He is saying that the vets say that deterioration in the brain can be identified only within three weeks of the conclusion of the disease. One of the difficulties in this whole process is that it is not until a very advanced stage of either BSE or CJD that the disease appears to be present. It is not until post-mortem examination that that can be confirmed.

The concern which my noble friend raised and which I too wish to mention is that surely we should use the culling and disposal programme to obtain information. We shall spend vast amounts of money on purchasing, slaughtering and disposing of animals. Surely it makes sense to spend a very small amount of money to make that examination to find out whether there are any traces of BSE in the animals that are slaughtered.

I wish to ask the Government whether they will make available facilities for the validation of tests being developed to try to determine whether BSE or CJD is present prior to post-mortem examination. That is one of the most crucial tests which needs to be devised. Again, the culling of large numbers of animals which may have BSE will provide a marvellous scientific opportunity to validate the tests. Will the Government make available those facilities?

My Lords, the answer to the concerns raised by the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, is simple. We have millions of pounds devoted to research into CJD and BSE. It is for the experts to tell us how they wish to deploy those funds; on which sites they are best deployed; and whether live animals, animals culled through the cull programme or animals which have died for other reasons, are the best material with which to work. They are the experts on the subject and they have the discretion to inform us as to what they need in order to do their job properly.

Salmon Management

6.9 p.m.

rose to call attention to the National Rivers Authority's recently published National Strategy for the Management of Salmon in England and Wales; and to move for Papers.

The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I must immediately declare an interest and a responsibility. I was an employee of the National Rivers Authority and project manager of the group which produced this strategy for the management of salmon in England and Wales. I am now employed by the Environment Agency which from 1st April this year took over the work of the NRA, including its responsibilities for fisheries and the implementation of this strategy. However, the opinions that I shall express this evening are entirely my own.

I put forward the Motion for the debate because I am aware that your Lordships' views on salmon matters are both well respected and widely listened to. Also, I believe that it is an opportune time for those views to be made known. Thanks mainly to one man, Orri Vigfusson, chairman of the North Atlantic Salmon Fund, the exploitation of our salmon in distant water fisheries has practically ceased. Surely now we must concentrate our attention on the effective management of home water salmon stocks. How we might achieve that in England and Wales is the subject of tonight's debate.

It was the need to provide a framework for more effective management and the best use of our resources that led to the idea of a salmon strategy just over three years ago. It was decided at the outset to base it upon the existing legal and administrative framework in order to make immediate progress towards better management of our salmon stocks. However, its development was slow and, at times, tortuous. If there is one thing that I can say with certainty about salmon, it is that everyone has different ideas about how best to manage them! Consultation was extensive both within and outside of the National Rivers Authority, and many valuable contributions were made. The strategy was scrutinised and endorsed by 10 regional fisheries advisory committees, three executive committees, including the main board of the NRA of which my noble friend Lord Crickhowell was chairman, and five successive heads or acting heads of fisheries.

In its final form, four simple objectives are proposed: to ensure that there are sufficient salmon to provide fisheries and to spawn; to maintain individual, genetically distinct salmon stocks as well as particular components of those stocks, such as spring run fish; to optimise the total economic value of surplus stocks; and to meet the necessary costs of managing the resource. Throughout the extensive consultation period I cannot recall anyone seriously disagreeing with those objectives or indeed presenting alternatives, but perhaps your Lordships may wish to do so tonight. However, there has been no shortage of comments upon how those objectives should be achieved and the issues surrounding them.

Not unexpectedly, it is the allocation of catch between nets and rods, who pays for what, as well as issues such as the north-east and Irish drift-net fisheries which have generated the maximum interest. I shall return to them in more detail later. It is rather more difficult to evoke a passionate response about spawning targets, and maintaining genetic diversity and yet, ultimately, all else depends on these.

We certainly cannot afford to be complacent about such matters. Preliminary estimates indicate that spawning targets are not being met in 14 out of the 19 Welsh salmon rivers examined so far. In many of our salmon rivers the spring running component of stocks continues to decline and in some rivers the introduction of stocked fish has already altered the genetic make-up of the native stock. Perhaps most alarming of all is the dramatic decline of salmon stock in our southern chalk streams and in particular the Hampshire Avon. I hope that my noble friend Lord Radnor will say more about that.

However, it is by no means all doom and gloom. There have been a number of successes in recent years; for example, on the River Usk in Wales effective anti-poaching measures have resulted in both increased stocks and catches. Salmon have been restored to a number of rivers, including the Taff, the Thames and the Tyne. As water quality improves, there is a real debate about whether or not it is desirable to encourage the restoration of other river systems, such as the Trent and the Humber, so that they, too, could support runs of salmon for the first time since the Industrial Revolution.

Whether declining or improving, however, we must be able to make objective decisions as to how to manage our salmon stocks. The approach proposed by this strategy is to develop local action plans which will set targets, and in particular spawning targets, for all the principal salmon rivers in England and Wales by the year 2000. The performance of both stocks and fisheries will be monitored and assessed in relation to those targets and appropriate management action taken if the targets are not being met.

Such an approach to managing salmon is not new. Spawning targets have been used in North America, particularly in Canada, for a number of years and have played a major role in the management of both their home water and distant water fisheries. If spawning targets are not met, it will be necessary to try to identify the factor or factors which are limiting salmon survival and production and to apply the appropriate management actions to overcome those limiting factors. Of these actions, the proper control of legal and illegal exploitation is of obvious importance. I wish to highlight just two of a number of recommendations made in the strategy concerning such controls.

First, does my noble friend the Minister agree with me that we need to develop cost-effective ways of preventing poaching? If so, I wonder whether my noble friend will be kind enough to say whether the Government would be prepared to look again at carcass tagging and dealer licensing?

The second recommendation concerns the need for new legislation to introduce rapid fishery control measures, for example, to safeguard stocks during prolonged drought conditions or perhaps from a sudden outbreak of disease. I believe that that is very topical. At present we have little, if any, flexibility to react to changing circumstances where a rapid response may be required, and this shortfall needs to be addressed.

In the time that I have left I should like to talk about the issues of the Irish and north-east drift-net fisheries, resource allocation and funding, all of which I referred to earlier. First, let me try to address the issue of the north-east drift-net fishery. It is clearly stated in the strategy that the NRA's policy is to phase out, over an appropriate time-scale, all fisheries which can be shown to exploit predominantly mixed stocks.

That policy is already being applied to the north-east drift-net fishery. The time-scale for the phase out is 30 to 40 years and this was guided by the Government's 1991 report titled Salmon Net Fisheries. That allows all existing net fishermen to continue in the fishery until retirement.

That is the current position. I am fully aware that the time-scale for phasing out this fishery is unacceptable to very many of your Lordships. Further, the issue has dominated discussions about salmon management both within and outside Parliament during recent years. Is there an alternative way forward? I believe that there could and should be.

In 1986, during the passage of the Salmon Bill through this House, the noble Lord, Lord Moran, put forward the idea of a phase out of the north-east drift-net fishery linked to government compensation of the fishermen involved. In 1992, he raised the matter again during the debate on his Unstarred Question. My noble friend Lord Howe, responding on behalf of the Government, confirmed that it would be perfectly feasible to introduce a private "buy out scheme" but rejected the notion of any government involvement.

More recently, the North East Coast Working Party consisting of representatives from MAFF, the Atlantic Salmon Trust, the Salmon and Trout Association and the North Atlantic Salmon Fund investigated netsmen's interest in possible decommissioning of this fishery. Similar initiatives have already been implemented successfully in both home and distant water fisheries. If a compensation deal can be brokered to bring forward the closure of the north-east drift-net fishery on a voluntary basis which satisfies both nets and other interested parties, then surely that presents a better way forward and is where we should be concentrating our energies.

In the context of what I have just outlined, might I ask the Minister whether she can comment on the relative cost to the public purse of maintaining the present fishery as compared to a decommissioned fishery? If it is more costly to maintain the present fishery than decommissioning it, might not the Government consider diverting the balance of the funding into a compensation scheme?

The successful resolution of the issue would, I believe, not only help at home but also abroad. In the strategy it is recommended that the Government press for the phasing out of the Irish drift-net fishery. I understand that they have, and I hope that they will continue to do so. However, if the north-east drift-net fishery was already phased out I believe that our case would be further strengthened.

That brings me to resource allocation. The question as to who should harvest the salmon resource is a long-standing issue. In the past, fierce debates have revolved around the relative economic value of rod and net fisheries. I believe that line of approach is broadly correct. In the strategy it is a stated objective to optimise the total economic value of the resource while allowing for social equity considerations. That objective is consistent with a national resource whose management is largely publicly funded. Salmon have a range of economic values which include their carcass value, the rental and capital value of salmon fisheries, the revenue from tourism generated by these fisheries and the conservation and heritage values of salmon and their fisheries.

To optimise the total economic value depends on achieving the correct balance of exploitation by nets, rods or even traps. As discussed at some length in the strategy document, predicting the results of changes in the exploitation of salmon is complex and depends on a wide range of factors, many specific to the river in question. However, in order to optimise the total economic value of the resource it might be necessary compulsorily to change resource allocation on certain rivers. Government alone could do this, as this would require legislative change.

The legislation we have today has its origins in a bygone age when netting of salmon as a source of food was paramount. The value of net-caught salmon is falling in real terms. It is now only one-third to one-half of that in the late 1970s. This is largely due to the production of farmed salmon which is 85 times greater than the total catch of wild fish. In contrast, the capital value of rod fisheries in England and Wales, now estimated at £100 million, has increased significantly over the past few decades. The legislation needs to reflect these changes, and until we have new legislation our ability to obtain the greatest economic return to the country as a whole will necessarily be limited.

Finally, I turn to the subject of funding. Government grant-in-aid paid for the majority of the NRA's expenditure on migratory salmonid fisheries last year—over 80 per cent. However, the total amount of this funding has declined from £13.4 million in 1991–92 to £7.5 million for the Environment Agency this year—a 44 per cent. cut. I hardly need to tell your Lordships that this is having a major impact on the services which can be provided. The Government have made it clear that they expect the direct beneficiaries of the resource to pay more. However, in raising this extra sum (indeed, all fisheries income), Government require the NRA and now the Environment Agency to seek to establish fair charging policies which will maximise income. This has provided these bodies with a conundrum. Set rod licences high enough to generate significant extra income and, in order to be fair, net licence charges need to be raised to a level which puts netsmen out of business. Set net licence fees at a level which is viable for netsmen, and rod fishermen claim that in comparison to their own fees it is neither fair nor will it maximise income. To this conundrum should be added the Section 142 charging scheme for riparian owners which has proved, as yet, to be quite impossible to implement with the result that not one single penny has passed from riparian owners to the NRA via this route.

We must have a workable funding system and a willingness to pay for this resource from all concerned, if we are to manage our salmon fisheries properly. As a first step, we need to establish from Government what aspects of management will be publicly as opposed to privately funded. We then need to ensure that the total funding, grant-in-aid, rod and net licence income, charges from riparian owners and others, is adequate to safeguard this valuable resource and to implement the necessary management measures that this strategy proposes. Let us not end up, as has happened elsewhere, finding adequate funds only when the resource has disappeared.

There is much that can be achieved if this strategy is implemented. We have established clear objectives and policies and provided a framework for management. I believe the setting and assessing of spawning and other targets is crucial if we are to protect stocks and identify where best to put our resources. It will be a major step forward to have local action plans for all our principal salmon rivers and it is particularly important that these are developed and carried out in partnership with local interests. Likewise, we must work closely with other salmon producing countries and it is hoped that this strategy will help to improve further the contribution that the United Kingdom can make to international salmon management.

To achieve all of this it is essential to have a workable funding system and adequate funds. I have highlighted some of the problems relating to our current system. I hope that both the Environment Agency and the Government will give these matters their full and speedy attention. However, to implement parts of this strategy fully will require changes to legislation, especially with regard to resource allocation and funding. There is growing pressure for new legislation. I hope that this strategy will act as a further catalyst for change. In the time available I have only been able to cover a fraction of the issues relating to salmon that the strategy covers. However, no doubt your Lordships will comment comprehensively on both the strategy and the issues. I look forward very much to hearing what noble Lords have to say. I beg to move for Papers.

6.25 p.m.

My Lords, first I congratulate the noble Viscount, Lord Mills, on his principal role in the preparation of this plan. I believe it is a job well done and it has been well researched. I wish to place on record also our appreciation of those who helped him in this exercise.

Such a strategy was much needed and the Salmon and Trout Association welcomes it. I speak as a member of the council of the association. If we are to succeed in restoring the salmon to its historic level in our rivers, or even to start encouraging that process, we have to recognise the steps that need to be taken at all stages of a complex life cycle and the resources which need to be allocated to achieve that.

Habitat enhancement in fresh water and the need to set targets for spawning escapement are covered in some detail in the strategy, and the detail therein would be difficult to improve on. However, our concerns are whether the new Environment Agency will have the resources to implement this part of the plan. As the noble Viscount has already told us—it is in the document—government grant-in-aid to fisheries has reduced from £13.4 million in 1991–92 to a proposed £7.5 million in 1996–97. That is a huge reduction and I know that the National Rivers Authority has entered the Environment Agency with, I gather, 1,200 fewer staff than it projected when the agency was conceived two years ago.

The association was also pleased to see that some of the critical comments it made during the consultation phase of this plan—with particular regard to exploitation of the salmon resource by nets—have been incorporated into the final document. The section of the plan which deals with this aspect illustrates quite graphically the constraints facing the agency imposed by fisheries legislation which is rooted in the past and which frustrates its fisheries staff from taking much needed management decisions. The sooner time can be found in this or another place for revised legislation, the better. I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Mills, on that point.

The association was also pleased to note during earlier debates a growing recognition that a national salmon strategy should be just that—salmon do not respect the boundary between England and Scotland—and we applaud the increased dialogue between salmon interests north and south of the Border, both between government departments and angling organisations such as the Scottish Anglers' National Association.

However, despite statements in the plan highlighting the need for increased protection for spring salmon, and strong statements condemning interceptory drift-netting of mixed stocks, particularly the Irish drift-net fishery, we remain concerned that in its last months the NRA failed to implement some important changes which would have afforded additional protection to salmon stocks. Ministers had urged the NRA to consider postponing the opening of the drift-net season to 1st May, a move in line both with the recommendations of the scientists of the North Atlantic Salmon Organisation and also European Union Council Directive 92/43 concerning the protection and conservation of salmon stocks. That suggestion was also made by Ministers in 1991, and for a second time. I am sorry to say that the NRA declined to implement the measure.

The Salmon and Trout Association very much hopes that the new Environment Agency has the courage of its convictions and moves swiftly to implement this proposal. This would indicate both that it means business and that the salmon management strategy is not just another good intention destined to gather dust on the shelf.

We shall also look to the new agency to make progress on a number of issues that it has inherited from the National Rivers Authority. The first, as the noble Viscount said, is the matter of the north-east drift-nets, as I have pointed out in past debates in another place and in this House over the past 15 years. There is indiscriminate damage caused to salmon stocks by the nets, and the stocks that the nets exploit are destined for the Yorkshire Esk and the east Scotland salmon rivers. My Scottish colleagues are equally concerned that this pernicious fishery should be phased out as quickly as possible. It is bad management practice; it is indiscriminatory; it is embarrassing to us within the North Atlantic Conservation Organisation. It is a practice totally contrary to the conservation of salmon. A buy-out agreed with these part-time netters should be sought. It should be possible. It has been done in major industries and can certainly be done in this one.

As an ordinary angler I remain concerned at the growth in the cormorant populations on our inland lakes and rivers and the damage that they are wreaking on our stocks of coarse and game fish. Is the Minister aware that, while we support the joint Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Department of the Environment three-year research programme on fish-eating birds, we expect the agency to take a proactive role in supporting anglers in their attempt to collect evidence of damage to fish stocks and support applications for licences to cull the cormorants where such damage can be proven.

Again as a regular angler, I am dismayed at the Minister's recent decision to increase rod licence charges for migratory fish while reducing the proposed increases for net licence charges. The Salmon and Trout Association feels so strongly about this issue that it has applied for leave to challenge the Minister's decision by judicial review.

Brian Clarke, a noted angler and correspondent, wrote recently:
"The study of netting licences, which are permissions to fish, was completed last year. It had the effect of highlighting what had long been known, that 700 commercial licence holders take more salmon in England and Wales than all the anglers put together; 56% of the total catch by one measure and around 70% by another. Yet the netsmen were contributing just 20% of licence income—the anglers 8%".
I ask the Minister: why is that so? Cannot this imbalance be rectified—especially when all the evidence shows that the economic, social and employment benefits from rod and line angling are much greater than those provided by commercial netters. I hope that the agency will recognise that the future of salmon management lies in recognising the overwhelming value of the recreational rod fishery and riparian owners and the angling community as their principal customers.

Finally, I turn to the problem of salmon poaching. I really do welcome the proposals for tougher penalties on these criminals. Pages 17 and 18 of the report list many measures that ought to be taken. Indeed, it necessitates legislation, and I hope a Bill will be forthcoming. Teams of poachers operate in organised gangs earning up to £1,000 a week netting, harpooning and gassing whole stretches of water, selling specimen salmon at £1 per pound on the black market. That alone increases the argument for tagging all caught salmon. We must also bear in mind that the theft of a typical 101b henfish can mean the loss of up to 8,000 eggs in a river's gravel spawning beds, upsetting the ecology of the river. Therefore I agree that bailiffs should be given increased rights to search and arrest in order to stamp out this crime on our rivers. I know it is a costly exercise—£4 million last year. Fighting crime usually is. But I hope that the agency, and the ministry, will seriously consider the legislation that is called for in this strategy.

6.35 p.m.

My Lords, we all agree, and are most grateful to my noble friend for his part in the production of this quite excellent strategy by the outgoing National Rivers Authority for the incoming Environment Agency.

I shall deal with just three aspects: first, the "hungry gap" for smolts when they leave our rivers and before they reach the plankton in the Arctic; secondly—a point which I believe should be developed—the preservation and procreation of the multi-sea winter salmon and the early running springers of which every river in the United Kingdom is now so desperately short; and thirdly, I shall develop further the point that the noble Lord, Lord Mason, made about the missing section in the strategy on predation on the spawning grounds and on the salmon parr.

One of the most worrying features today is that the excellent, prolific spring migration downriver of smolts going to the sea which still takes place in so many rivers fails to come back as grilse or salmon in anything like the proportions that it used to in the 1960s. We cannot just go on blaming, as we did in the early 1970s, the Icelandic fisheries, the illegal driftnetting around our coast or the other interceptory fisheries, which have been curtailed. The problem is far worse than that. It is that the right quantity of fish is no longer there to be intercepted.

We have had a series of warm winters and, as a result, the plankton is further away. It has nothing to do with global warming; it is simply the result of a change in climate, which is always happening in this country. The very first thing that the smolts leaving our rivers rely on when they reach the sea is an abundance of sand eels as their main food supply. Today, we are allowing the Danes to fish our sand eels to power their electricity. That is detrimental, as we all know, to the food supply of some of our sea birds. But worse still, it is lethal for the smolts, and it creates the "hungry gap" for the fish that have spawned, passed through the stages of parr, smolted, gone to sea and never reach their main food supply in the Arctic.

We all know, or think or hope we know, that "like breeds like". This problem of the shortage of early spring fish stems from three things. The extraordinary thing is that it may have to do with the temperature of the water. We all know that a good, early running spring fish is a free taker. So a higher proportion of these fish get taken by the rod fishermen than does any other group of the population. There is also the problem of over-redding on the redds. The early spring fish mature earlier. Their redds get dug up by the later running fish—particularly when there is a shortage of spawning grounds—which go to spawn in exactly the same place and dig up the redds of the earlier fish. So we have a problem with the limited spawning grounds of the later running fish digging up the redds of the fish we want to procreate.

The other problem is stripping the fish in the rivers. It is an awful business. One sees on an early winter's day in mid-November a gang of men going out with nets and buckets. They charge about on the precious redds, catch as many fish as they can which they hope are fertile and fertilise them in the bucket. All they have to do is obtain sufficient spawn to take back and fill the hatchery. The problem is more serious and scientific than is realised. Such people do not know what spawn they are taking and what spawn they are fertilising.

For 21 years I was chairman of the fisheries board. During that time, with the help of Liverpool University, we carried out what would have developed successfully had we been able to spend the money on it. We carried out a successful experiment on trapping the fish that ran the river in February and March and holding them till they were ripe and ready to spawn in special tanks. We stripped and put back into the river only the fry from the early running fish. Within a seven-year period, there was a marked improvement in the spring run, but it is difficult and expensive to do, one needs a lot of construction and the fish need nurturing until they are ready to strip. I am sorry that the strategy document, which puts so much emphasis on the need to restock rivers with their own naturally run stock of fish, does not make the point that we should only strip the early running fish and return that spawn to the river.

In addition, there is the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Mason: the missing strategy on predation. We cannot duck the issue in the first instance of mammalian predation around our coasts by the grey seal. When the salmon fishing was really good in the 1960s, the total grey seal population around the whole of the United Kingdom was 24,000. Today it is 108,000 and increasing at 9 per cent. a year. It is said because of what I can only regard as a slightly bogus scientific survey that salmon is not the principal food of the seals. The survey was based on droppings taken from seals when they haul out before they pup. Most people realise that the seal is the one mammal which goes into decline before it pups. The droppings—which were not picked up at sea, that would not be possible—were picked up on the land where the seals were hauling out to pup. The droppings showed a high preponderance of sand eel. When the Aberdeen research unit succeeded in catching seals at sea, those seals had a high percentage of salmon in their stomachs. If one examines the stomach of a seal that has been caught in a net and killed, the first thing a seal does when it is caught is to empty its stomach and as a result there is no incriminating evidence.

So much for what I believe is important: the damage done by mammalian predators. The avian predation on the spawning grounds is even worse and it is particularly dangerous when we put the fed fry back into the river. The fry have no idea that the shadow of the cormorant is not the shadow of the hands that fed them in tanks. Therefore, they do not take cover from cormorants, mergansers and goosanders. With respect to my noble friend Lord Crickhowell, it is fair to say that the National Rivers Authority has ducked the issue of giving people licences under the necessary wildlife registration order to cull the cormorants. The authority will only issue a licence if one can prove serious financial damage.

Until a few years ago, the cormorant was a shore nesting bird. We used to control cormorants, we went to sea in March and shot them all around the mouth of a river so that the population was maintained at a level equal to the food supply at sea. That discouraged the cormorants from coming inland and fishing up the river; they are not inland birds.

I would not wish to stray into a major argument on avian predation in this country. It is too late this spring, but as a compromise we should be allowed next spring to have a policy of egg pricking for the birds which are nesting inland. I do not suggest that we should start a campaign of shooting them because that is not allowed, but there is no reason why we should not prick the eggs of all inland nesting cormorants. Then we may hope that the population will begin to decline.

It is urgent that we look at the problem of the hungry gap. The Government bear a responsibility for allowing the Danes to fish out our sand eel population. The sand eel population is important to much else, but it is vital to our salmon stocks. The strategy set out in the document on restocking needs refining, and we must know what fish are being stripped. Finally, we can no longer go on ducking the issue of predation, both mammalian and avian. Both must be managed.

6.46 p.m.

My Lords, I too wish to thank the noble Viscount for giving us this opportunity to debate salmon policies and for the clear, constructive and stimulating way in which he introduced the subject. I must declare an interest in that my family owns a small salmon fishery on the upper Wye and I am a vice-president of the Atlantic Salmon Trust and the Welsh Salmon and Trout Angling Association.

The first time I spoke on salmon in your Lordships' House was on 19th February 1985, when I said (at col. 526 of Hansard):
"I think that there is an urgent need for an effective national salmon management policy which does not exist at the moment, when we have four Ministers concerned with fisheries problems in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland and, as a result, we have an unco-ordinated policy; for example, drift netting banned in Scotland but permitted in England where I believe the great majority of fish taken are headed for Scottish rivers".
That was 11 years ago. Nothing much has changed except that the Government set up the Salmon Advisory Committee under the late Professor Dunnet, but they have now wound that up. I also pointed out in that 1985 debate that, despite the unanimity and deep knowledge displayed by Peers in salmon debates in 1980 and 1981, after those debates nothing happened. I hope that that will not be the case after this debate.

Now, much later, we are still no nearer a genuine national salmon policy, embracing, as it should, the whole of the United Kingdom. But at least the noble Viscount and his colleagues—a number of whom I know and very much respect—are to be warmly congratulated on having produced a salmon management strategy for England and Wales. That is at least a good beginning. As such, it is very welcome, as is the setting of objectives and the defining of the steps needed to attain those objectives.

The new strategy will need to be co-ordinated with the policies which come out of the review of Scottish salmon fisheries currently being conducted by the noble Lord, Lord Nickson, and with policies for Northern Ireland rivers. If that is done, we shall really move forward.

So far as the strategy itself is concerned, I strongly support what is said about habitat enhancement and all the recommendations listed on page 18; that is, carcass tagging, dealer licensing, prohibition of the sale of rod-caught salmon and encouragement of more effective action by the courts against poachers. In fact, I argued for all those during the passage of the Salmon Bill in 1986. The Government then rejected tagging in favour of dealer licensing, only to abandon that in 1987, after planning to introduce it. They told me also that prohibition of the sale of rod-caught salmon was too draconian a measure, which seemed and seems to me to be nonsense. Some of the recommendations have been put forward repeatedly in the past. For example, as I told the House in January 1988, dealer licensing has been put forward repeatedly by committee after committee for 60 years.

I very much welcome what is said in the strategy about legislative proposals and the streamlining of procedures, on page 15. Far too much fisheries legislation is now out of date. I also welcome the reaffirmation of the NRA's policy against fishing of mixed stocks, on page 16. It took some time for the NRA to come round to that view, but I am glad that it has. I welcome the call for an end to the Irish drift-net fishery, a matter which I have brought up several times in your Lordships' House. The call for research on salmon in the marine phase (on page 24) is extremely important and should be pursued both nationally and internationally.

I should say a few words about spawning escapement targets, which are discussed on pages 8 to 11 of the strategy and given great emphasis in the report. I believe that it is very much for the long term. At the moment, we do not have accurate data. It would be very difficult to measure the parameters. On my own river, the River Wye, only now do we have an experimental acoustic counter, which is being evaluated. We do not yet know the size of the run, let alone how many fish successfully spawn and what could be the ideal number. What is said about spawning targets is very sensible but it is very much for the long term. We should be careful not to be too hasty in taking management decisions on fairly speculative information. It also needs to be borne in mind that there is always a need for an exploitable surplus in any river, not just for the survival of the stock.

An important point was made by the noble Lord, Lord Mason of Barnsley, about whether the Environment Agency will have adequate resources. I know that on the River Wye the excellent fisheries officer has just had his post abolished, which shows the pressure that resources are under. The noble Lord, Lord Mason, made very strongly the point about the north-east drift-net fisheries. I remember during the passage of the Salmon Act, with the support of the late Lord Home, urging that that fishery should be phased out in five years. What is said in the strategy about the north-east fisheries repeats the previous NRA unwillingness to act effectively to implement its own stated principle of ending the exploitation of predominantly mixed stocks. It used to be said that natural wastage would bring the fishery to an end in 30 years. That now seems to have become 40 years, but in any case that is far too long.

We should strictly control industrial fishing, especially for sandeels, as I urged in our debate on fish stocks on 16th April. We should aim to eliminate entirely interceptory fisheries for mixed stocks and salmon should be harvested in their rivers of origin, as the Hunter Report recommended some 30 years ago.

The noble Viscount talked about distant water fisheries and referred to the admirable work of Orri Vigfusson in arranging for compensation schemes to pay Greenland and Faroes fishermen for not fishing their NASCO quotas. I do not believe that the problem has just gone away. There are good prospects for a renewal of the Greenland ban. Nonetheless, the need for finance is still very important. Given the cost effectiveness of the compensation scheme—a cost of about £5 for each extra fish in UK waters compared with between £80 and £180 for hatchery-reared fish—I wonder whether the Environment Agency would be prepared to consider making a direct contribution to the UK share of that scheme. It would be greatly appreciated if it were to do so.

The strategy makes strongly the point about the current shortage of multi-sea-winter fish, the "springers", about which noble Lords have already spoken. I was a member of a deputation that went to see Mr. Waldegrave when he was Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. We asked him, in the light of the compensation schemes in Greenland and the Faroes, to consider asking the NRA to bring down the date of opening the north-east fisheries to 1st May. He thought about that and agreed to it. As the noble Lord, Lord Mason, pointed out, Ministers twice encouraged the NRA to take that step to protect the spring fish and it is cause for great regret that it declined to do so.

Quite a lot is said in the strategy about sustainable exploitation. It is explained that the NRA had no remit to consider the allocation of resources. I wonder whether the Environment Agency, which, unlike the NRA, has a requirement to operate under the principle of sustainable development, will be able to take a different view. It would be helpful if it were able to do so.

One of the primary deficiencies in the present management is described at the bottom of page 4 as:
"The lack of clear … economic, social and political objectives".
The aim is stated, on page 5, as:
"management … [resulting] in a net economic gain to the country as a whole as well as providing social and conservation benefits".
Together that would seem to justify a management policy that takes into account the impact of different types of fishery on regional economies.

Your Lordships will know that the greater contribution of rod fisheries to local revenue, through all the related expenditure on accommodation, services and tackle, has been repeatedly demonstrated, most recently in the 1991 study commissioned by MAFF.

NRA scientists have done very valuable work. The strategy is an important legacy for the Environment Agency. I am only sad that in its last months the NRA has taken some steps which seem to be inconsistent with its duty to maintain, improve and develop fisheries; namely, refusing to move the north-east fishery opening date to 1st May, continuing to subsidise commercial netting and applying, 11 days before it went out of existence, for a navigation order on the Wye, which, even though less bad than it was originally, is still one to which many fishery interests on the river will be bound to object.

The noble Viscount spoke interestingly about funding. I have always thought that enforcement against poaching, which is enforcing the law of the land as laid down by Parliament, should be paid for from public funds. There is a limit to what can be expected from fishery owners. The scarcity of salmon means that it is often difficult to let salmon fishing in England and Wales. So, too much should not be expected from them.

It does not seem fair that the Scottish fish element of the north-east fisheries should be ignored in setting licence charges for that fishery. If netting is allowed to continue, net licence levels must reflect catches far more closely than they do at present.

In general, this is a valuable strategy. We must thank the noble Viscount and his colleagues for the work that they put into it, which I hope will be carried forward by the Environment Agency.

7 p.m.

My Lords, I too thank my noble friend Lord Mills, not only for bringing this subject before us, but also for producing, together with others, a remarkable document. I disagree with very little in it, though I shall comment on it from a different angle as I proceed.

My first comment—or mild complaint—is that I was sorry that Scotland was not included. The noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, from the far North is sitting in the Chamber and will no doubt tell us something about Scotland. But it seems a pity that we missed some cross-pollination of information that might have taken place between England, Wales and Scotland.

My other sorrow is that this wonderful document came 10 years too late. The writing has been on the wall for a long time, with the situation with regard to salmon stocks becoming serious. That leads me on to another important point. The document is full, quite rightly, of ways of assessing what stocks there are—presumably the numbers of redds and so forth. It gives the idea that we are at the beginning of a situation and are going to go through an assessment process.

The fish stocks committee recognised that the assessment of fish stocks in the oceans was an imprecise science. I still believe that it is imprecise in the case of rivers too. I hope that we have got past the point of deciding what to do with regard to some of the rivers—the noble Viscount said a large proportion in Wales. We have got to work to a certain extent on hunch, knowledge and local knowledge and do something now. In the seas it is called a precautionary attitude: be careful; do something now; do not let the situation deteriorate any further.

The noble Viscount suggested that I might talk about the Avon. I have got 14 minutes and have never spoken for more than about 10. However, I point out that we used to catch around 65 salmon fairly high up the river, just below Salisbury, every year. Our best year was when we caught 99. That was when the water meadows—a feature of Wiltshire farming—went out of business, the sluices were drawn and fresh fish could get through instead of just the red spawners. Last week I asked what the situation was this year. We have lost one fish on our water, not surprisingly, because we discouraged people from fishing. The poor man who was fishing was fishing with a rather small cork with the barb cut off. The rest of the treble was cut off and the salmon eluded him—he was going to return it to the water anyway.

Roughly speaking, the catch used to be 400 to the nets and 400 to the rods. This year, with a restricted season, four fish have been landed so far on the whole river. That underlines that something must be done on the Hampshire Avon, and that may be so on many other rivers. We have heard a lot about the counting of redds, electric fishing power and that kind of thing. But the moment for that is over. It can run on in parallel, but something must be done now. As I said, that is probably so with other rivers also.

I looked at this question again when I read the document, which I enjoyed, and I agree with it. I thought of the three places where salmon come to grief: on the high seas, in the estuaries and in the river. Having come from the fish stocks committee, I began thinking about the high seas and all the problems that we came across with other fish. There is a lot of talk about drift-nets being successfully "off" off the coast of Ireland. There is what sounds rather a fragile agreement relating to waters off the Faroes because that agreement has to be renewed. Without being too unpleasant, I wonder who monitors that. The trouble with all the rules in relation to the rest of the fish species is that nobody sticks to them but they all pretend that they do.

Likewise, salmon do not just go "off". We found that they concentrated off the Faroes. But the salmon have to get to the Arctic. I take a fishing magazine called Fishing International. I picked up a snippet from a copy that was on my desk this morning. Apparently an Icelandic ship has just been equipped with a new purse-seine net, the circumference of the mouth of which is 3,600 metres. That can gobble up cod, hake and every other sort of fish including, presumably, salmon as they wander on their way. We cannot ignore that a lot of damage may be being done in large parts of the ocean, but we are pretty sure that there is nothing that we can do about it, apart from the agreements involving the drift-netting.

Then we come back to the estuaries. I do not know much about it, but it is said that the fish are trapped by the seine net in the Avon, but I believe people use stake nets in other places. I agree with previous speakers that that is an archaic way of gathering fish. It may have been suitable when fish were plentiful. It is time that the regulations were speeded up or laws altered and nets bought out at a fair price, rather as an ocean-going vessel can be decommissioned at a fair price. I have made that suggestion on a number of occasions in regard to the Avon and have been told every time that it is not possible. I take courage from the report that it is possible and I shall go into battle once more.

I believe that that will make a considerable difference. If we cannot control what is happening in the oceans perhaps we should over-control what is happening in the estuaries to counter-balance the situation. The same applies in the rivers. If nets are restricted then, where needed, severe restrictions should be placed on rods in all the various ways that the NRA document mentions—for example, shortened seasons, certain types of bait and so forth. I believe that many people are doing that already, certainly on the River Avon.

In regard to the message about co-operation and arrangements between the agency and riparian owners, I should like the co-operation to start with somebody from the agency discussing the problems and the history of the river with the people who really know; that is, the people who live on it. So often it has been my experience that somebody gets in touch, having given reasonable notice though sometimes it is quite unreasonable, and asks whether they can electric-fish parr, clean gravel banks or something of that sort. It seems that they never think to come and ask whether they are going to clean a gravel bank where salmon have never been known to spawn or whether they are going to the right one. That may perhaps be an exaggeration, but not entirely so.

Finally, I must support strongly my noble friend Lord Kimball in respect of the plan of the noble Lord, Lord Mason of Barnsley, and the business of predation. There is something idiotic about spending a lot of time, thought and money preserving a wonderful species of God's animal and at the same time not being allowed to protect it from a rather grizzly bird which is hugely on the increase and should be dealt with in one way or another.

We shall never get rid of all the cormorants or the herons, so I do not know why the RSPB is so worried. Those are the two birds, with the black backed gulls, that are crippling some of our chalk streams. It is not just a matter of the ones which nest inland. As soon as they finish nesting they will be coming up in droves, and they fish and they fish. I can put up with grebes, of both kinds, with kingfishers of course, and with all the lovely things, but the cormorant to me is not a lovely thing. Some people may think that there are only a few herons in the world. I am a fish farmer and I netted over my fish farm at enormous expense after I counted, standing in three columns around the fish farm waiting to go in, 327 herons. My sales went up to £160,000 the following year. Predation is a vital point.

That is all I have to say except once more to congratulate the noble Viscount on an excellent job done.

7.11 p.m.

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Mills for initiating this debate. We are considering a document, which I understand was written by the noble Viscount himself, which deals very comprehensively with our concerns about a resource which is nationally and internationally important. My noble friend kindly urged me to take part in this English/Welsh debate though I am a Scot because, as he put it, it has a strong international dimension. I would agree with that approach, although I am not entirely satisfied that it is followed in the document.

My noble friend indicated that there was a reason for that. However, I would have hoped that the problems affecting salmon in fresh water had been given the same attention in the document as the need to protect them on their dangerous sea journeys. The problems of whose nets and whose hooks are to be used at home are fully explored, but the problems of shortage of feeding in the sea are hardly touched on. The paper rightly stresses the need to find out more about what happens to post smolts, but it should urge greater use of modern equipment to pinpoint all the journeys of salmon at sea, as is now possible in rivers. I mention, as the noble Lord, Lord Moran, mentioned, the good work of the North Atlantic Salmon Trust in preventing over-exploitation near the feeding grounds.

A serious decline would affect many local communities, particularly in Scotland, where visitors come to catch salmon or just enjoy their presence. They are a species of fish whose beauty of form and movement is a joy to behold. I should like to pay a particular compliment to the drawings in the document which cheer it up considerably so far as I am concerned. The document sets out a strategy for their management in England and Wales. Coming from Scotland as a Tweed riparian owner I speak with an interest to declare. The strategy which is set out in the document corresponds to the strategy which may be adopted in Scotland. So it is perhaps a timely moment for me to say something about Scotland.

A salmon strategy task force has been set up by the Secretary of State for Scotland with a view to recommending a strategy,
"for the management, conservation and suitable exploitation of the stocks into the next century".
The task force is expected to report by the end of the year. The Tweed is represented on this body by our clerk, Mrs. Judith Nicol. Scotland along with the rest of the United Kingdom and the whole of Northern Europe and the North Atlantic must unite in a joint strategy. It is only if all of us work together that our aims will succeed. Our strategies must be based on the principles proposed in this document though, as it concedes, the tactical battles will always be affected by local conditions and by the seasons.

The report is, I repeat, on the whole disappointingly non-international. It is almost isolationist in its tone. It appears to drop a curtain between the river and the sea. Even the references to Scotland are sparse. It also concentrates very much on "cost benefit" and the sustainable development of the salmon resource without emphasising the needs of conservation and research. That is not to say that the NRA is not trying to avoid further dwindling stocks and it makes many useful proposals in many important directions. It makes a good case for an element of public money to be spent on salmon fishery improvements. I hope that the Government will examine the idea of giving public money in Scotland.

At present, the riparian owners pay all the costs of running the Tweed Commission. I would hope that the main responsibilities and powers will be left in its hands and in the hands of the Tweed Foundation. Good management strategy requires teamwork and a sense of urgency to overcome obstacles and to reach objectives. The Tweed has an excellent team at commission headquarters and among the staff and down as far as the bailiffs on the ground.

There is a saying about waiting for officialdom which equals waiting till kingdom come. This can happen. Plans take time to materialise from theory into practice. For example, on the Tweed the design of cauld reconstructions, whose systems may form barriers and may be unhelpful to the river as a whole, have been slow to accomplish. Nevertheless, new fish passes have been built on the Till in Northumberland with the help of the NRA and Northumberland County Council. That is an example of good cross-border co-operation. The cost of cauld reconstructions on fishing beats is the responsibility of riparian owners but fish p asses on the Till and other spawning areas are not and cost money. There is a need for public money support for those kinds of improvements. There is a particular argument for spending some public money in Scotland, because it is there where most of our salmon rivers exist, with their surrounding dependent communities.

I should like to support the NRA's wish to strengthen legislation to improve fishery control measures. I am less happy with its intention to stick to a policy of only phasing out the north-east drift-net fishery. The document states that under this policy only the reallocation of surrendered drift-net licences will be prohibited, and that without there being clear evidence that stocks need to be conserved, any speedier phasing out or closure of the fishery would require action by the Government. Could the NRA not have gone as far as to say that it would welcome such a move on the part of the Government? I was happy to hear from my noble friend Lord Mills that he would welcome that move. Although the NRA is unwilling to close down the fishery, it is quite ready to offer its services as a go-between to allow river interests to buy out and close a fishery.

The Government should be reminded of their pledge when the Salmon Bill was debated some 10 years ago. Under pressure from your Lordships, the then Minister, my noble friend Lord Belstead, undertook to reconsider the problem if after a five-year period the drift-net catches were to reveal serious damage to fish stocks. In 1991 the Government took the view that there was no evidence of an immediate threat to stocks and recommended a phasing out policy. Today the records are available and show an annual catch of 40,000 fish, of which a quarter are destined for the Tweed. The harvest of 10,000 Tweed fish equals one-third of the Tweed catches, one-third being caught by rods and one-third by river nets. These are our salmon runs which enter the river in spring and summer when the nets are in action, runs which are in decline and which are badly needed for our economy.

In my view, the drift-nets are a great threat to the stocks of the Tweed. According to the NRA, the north-east drift-nets will not be phased out for 40 years, although they will have been half-closed in 10 years' time. Given improved techniques, the net catches will go on rising, so the same number of fish will be caught with half the number of nets. Although they take a large share of our fish, they do not contribute to our river management: instead, the value of their catch is included in the Northumbrian assessment.

I find the NRA's acceptance of a slow phasing out process in the north-east fishery to be in sad contrast to its policy of recommending a quota system for Greenland and the Faroes and to its welcome for a possible Irish Government move to ban completely all drift-net netting round the Irish coast. I wish it had gone as far as recommending an equal welcome to a British Government move to ban all drift-netting round the British coast.

By failing to establish on behalf of the whole of the United Kingdom a common drift-net policy target, the NRA is guilty of adopting double standards. It is failing to give a strong message which will tell the international community that the United Kingdom is determined to win the battle to preserve the salmon.

In 1995 there was a decline in the number of rod-fish caught on the Tweed. We caught 9,600 fish, which is 4 per cent. down on 1994 and 6 per cent. down on the previous five-year average. These disappointments are reminding us of the need for constant awareness and readiness to act. The last sentence,
"Any decision to terminate or reduce exploitation would have to be taken after the spawning escapement had fallen significantly below the target level",
indicates a dangerous policy. To wait until the resource has declined to low levels is too late. It is also a reminder of the danger to our local communities if we fail to restore a resource which is so important for the future. This resource is particularly valuable in the Borders. I am worried by the research quoted in Objective 3, under the names of Radford, Hatcher and Witmarsh, who reject the economic value to the community as a measure of the value of rod-caught salmon by substituting the value of catches less the value of anglers' expenditure. They reject the people and the families who work in and benefit from the restaurants, shops and hotels in river valleys. This is a serious and anti-social reassessment of salmon-related value to the community.

My noble friend Lord Kimball and the noble Lord, Lord Mason, made a plea about the need to restrict predators. One bird which was not mentioned by them which affects us very badly on the Tweed is the goosander.

Yes. I went to Moss near my home in September, I believe it was. I counted 600 goosanders in an area of about an acre. They were congregating there for some reason which I did not know. It is an indication of the enormous number of birds in the Tweed valley which do an enormous amount of damage to our young fry and smolt in the river. They have a very bad effect.

I offer these comments together with my genuine support for the strategic proposals in the report which seek to deal with many complicated problems. I hope that the Government will pay some heed to the report. I congratulate the NRA on producing it and I wish the Environment Agency in England and Wales a successful outcome as a result.

7.24 p.m.

My Lords, I hurried back from Cardiff this afternoon to take part in this debate for two good reasons. The first is to express my thanks to my noble friend Lord Mills, not just for initiating this debate, but, even more important, for being the principal progenitor of this strategy for salmon management. The second is to emphasise the significance of this new strategy, which was one of the final achievements of the NRA before it handed over its responsibilities to the new Environment Agency.

The NRA spent a great deal of time discussing fishing issues at its board meetings. I very much doubt whether the new agency will be able to do the same. The pressure on its agenda will be immense and for a time at least I suspect that both the board and the senior managers of the agency will have other priorities.

From the time that has been devoted to salmon in this House—we have returned again to the subject tonight—one might have thought that the only thing of real interest in the whole issue of protecting salmon in British waters was to end very speedily the north-east coast fishery. The NRA document at least has one benefit: it brings out very clearly that there is much more to it than that.

The issue of the net fishery has been discussed so often that I do not intend to say very much about it tonight except to point out to the noble Lord, Lord Moran, that from the start, and not belatedly, it was the NRA's clear view that mixed stock exploitation should be phased out. But equally, we took the view—we believe that it was firmly based on law and not simply on opinion—that it was for government to decide how best to deal with the social consequences.

Without an immediate threat to stocks it was not for the NRA, and will not be for the Environment Agency, to take the more immediate and violent action that has sometimes been advocated, and has indeed just been eloquently advocated by my noble friend Lord Haig.

In the wider context, the NRA did think it right to set as an objective for the strategy the aim that surplus stocks should be exploited in a way that optimises their total economic value so long as that does not jeopardise achieving optimal spawning escapement or ignore considerations of social equity. I believe that my noble friend Lord Haig was a bit tough in his remarks about the economic policy in suggesting that it ignored the prime importance of conservation when in fact conservation was put right up as Objective 1 and that this very objective spelt out very clearly that it was dealing only with surplus stocks in terms of economic exploitation.

Section 3.1 of the strategy document makes it very clear that the issues are complex although they are frequently over-simplified by those who have a case to make. It involves achieving the correct balance of exploitation by nets and rods. At present the Environment Agency, like the NRA before it, has no powers to change resource allocation. It can advise on the scientific aspects and act, as my noble friend Lord Mills, pointed out, as an honest broker if fishery owners or anglers want to buy back the net fisherman's right to fish. But any compulsory change in resource allocation will require action by government and legislative change.

Perhaps I may make one reference to my noble friend Lord Mills and his powerful argument in favour of a buy-out. If we are to do it we had better get on with it. Simply to talk about it encourages existing fishermen to continue to fish in the hope that the buy-out will come. There is some quite strong evidence that the numbers are being held up at the present time for that reason. So if there is to be a buy-out action needs to be taken quite fast. I think too that it should be understood that the costs of policing the fishery will probably rise because the licensed netsmen play a crucial part in ensuring that indiscriminate poaching does not take place in the area.

Earlier this year the NRA was asked to consider whether there were sound grounds for postponing the start of netting off the north-east coast until 1st May, a fact referred to in strong terms by the noble Lord, Lord Mason. It seemed quite clear to us that there were no adequate scientific grounds for doing that at present. The impact on stock numbers in the rivers would have been negligible. I found that evidence pretty compelling. We read it most carefully and discussed it at great length. Perhaps I may advise the noble Lord that it was not a lack of will that prevented us taking action, but the scientific facts and the numbers as we interpreted them.

However, apparently the Minister was not entirely convinced. I therefore proposed an ongoing discussion involving MAFF, the Scottish Office and all other interested parties so that the matter could be kept under review and those involved could return to it. Against the background of the views expressed by the Minister, we were surprised when our scheme to increase the net licence charges was amended to reduce them in that part of the country. That seemed a slightly inconsistent approach. The noble Lord also referred to that point. The charging scheme that is now in place is clearly the Minister's, rather than that of the NRA.

That brings me to the whole question of government support. The very sharp cut in grant in aid funding has been referred to by others. I have to say firmly that enough is enough. The NRA learned the hard way how difficult it is to devise an acceptable and workable scheme so that riparian owners contribute to expenditure which certainly benefits many of them. A great effort has undoubtedly still to be made by a variety of means to maximise resources, possibly by partnerships in which fishing associations, clubs and owners would work with the Environment Agency, not necessarily contributing in cash, but in a variety of other ways. There could be direct contributions from the beneficiaries of agency work, including those who fish and those who own fisheries. There could be sponsorship of the kind that has been so successful on the Thames. There could also be cost recovery from those who damage fisheries.

Having said that, and having freely conceded that all those must contribute, I have to say firmly to the Government that in my view and in the view of my former colleagues in the NRA there are overwhelming arguments for the maintenance of substantial government funding for fisheries. Last year we presented a powerful and detailed case to Mr. Hogg, and to Mr. Hague at the Welsh Office. That case is set out again very clearly on page 34 of the strategy paper. The Government have a clear duty to continue to fund the law enforcement activities of the agency in the face of increasingly professional and often violent poaching activities; to help to put right the historic damage caused by industrial and economic activities in the past; and to take some proper account of the wider public benefits that arise from the presence of fish in our rivers, not just for those who catch, or seek to catch, them.

The strategy is very much based on consultation. There has been widespread consultation during its preparation. Its future success will depend on an effective process of ongoing consultation, co-operation and ownership, harnessing local knowledge (of the kind referred to by my noble friend Lord Radnor) with the best available scientific information.

Catchment management planning has been the key instrument of the NRA in effectively achieving an integrated approach to water management, because healthy fisheries depend on adequate flows, good water quality and a suitable physical habitat. Within the catchment management arrangements, we are now to have salmon action plans. Do we need a strategy? Yes, I am sure that we do. I am sure that the use of spawning targets gives us a basic measure against which that strategy can be measured.

I should like to touch on one or two other points that have been raised in the debate. I agree with those who believe that at present the law is extremely cumbersome and that we need a faster way of changing the by-laws, particularly in an emergency. We really do need to have much more flexible arrangements than exist at present, but we must, of course, protect individual rights and interests in any process that is introduced.

The strategy lays a good deal of emphasis on genetic diversity and on the importance of maintaining a rigorous approach to stocking practice. I think that that is wise, particularly as much of the evidence suggests that stocking is frequently not a cost-effective option. There needs to be an active exchange between the scientists, the agency and fisheries' owners on such issues, because I do not think that that fact is widely understood.

The subject of avian predators has been raised. My noble friend Lord Kimball accused the NRA of ducking its responsibilities. I think that my noble friend got it wrong. It is not our responsibility. It is clearly the responsibility of Ministers in MAFF and the Welsh Office. It is not a subject which the NRA or the Environment Agency control.

I am glad that there has been a reference to herons. I think that it is the herons who are taking both the trout and the salmon from my little trout stream. The fish are not there in the quantities of a few years ago.

On rereading the strategy, like many others I was struck by the need to place greater emphasis on what is happening out in the Atlantic. There is an urgent need to understand much more about the consequences of changing weather patterns, currents and temperatures. I believe that they are of crucial importance. My noble friend Lord Kimball referred to the fact that the plankton may be further away. There is much historic evidence that previous cycles have affected the distribution of fish. If we do not understand what is happening out there with those vast forces, our puny little efforts at home may well be misdirected and the results of our analysis may not be properly understood.

I have one final point. There is a need for discipline and self-restraint, particularly if we want to see the return of spring-run salmon stocks. There is a great deal of evidence that there has been over-fishing by rods on certain rivers, certainly on the Wye. I welcome the support that has generally been given on that by all but a few.

We owe a considerable debt to my noble friend Lord Mills and to all his professional colleagues for their work. It is a particularly happy circumstance that the author of this important document should be able to present it in your Lordships' House. It is rather a good justification also for the inherited principle.

7.39 p.m.

My Lords, I must declare an interest as chairman of the company which manages the river whose name I bear. I am also a member of the Caithness Fisheries Board. Like all noble Lords who have spoken in the debate, I am most grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Mills, for the opportunity to debate this excellent strategy document. Indeed, I congratulate the noble Viscount on being the author of a document which is not only lucid and clear but which also sets out the problems and some of the solutions for salmon management in England and Wales in a way that is both comprehensive and structured.

It is difficult for me to take part in a debate in your Lordships' House without making reference to my father. Perhaps the best compliment I can pay the noble Viscount is that all of the things my father taught me about salmon management, and a great deal more, are contained in his report. A number of overall themes come through repeatedly and strongly. I should like to touch on one or two of them.

I refer to the need for co-operation and consensus among all those involved in the management and exploitation of this valuable resource; the identification in the document of the current lack of co-ordination and co-operation between many of those involved in fisheries as a primary deficiency in present management; the insistence on a scientifically-based approach to the problem, which comes through again and again in the document, and the clear need for more data and study; and the great importance of understanding and nurturing the river environment, particularly the riverine habitat. I include the sea as part of habitat management. I share the concern of the noble Lord, Lord Kimball, in regard to what he termed the hungry gap.

I turn first to the environment. I have long been of the opinion that many of the problems encountered in salmon management and the reduction of stocks in many of our rivers have been caused, not by one drastic event or easily identifiable source, but by a combination of factors that have insidiously over a period of time come together to create the difficulties we now face. Although I know of many rivers whose entire population of salmon has been wiped out by pollution or other environmental factors, I am not aware of any river whose population of salmon has been entirely wiped out by human fishing activity. Therefore, I believe that one of the most significant points in the document is the importance that it attaches to habitat management. It is said on page 20 that increasingly it is recognised that often habitat restoration and improvement can be a more efficient, self-sustaining and cost-effective means of increasing fish production and stocking.

As to my own river, I am extremely fortunate that not only do I own it from source to sea, as well as the estuary fishings, but I own or control most of the land adjacent to the river. For as long as I can remember my father worked to maintain and, where possible, improve the habitat. Our methods were built up over many years, very often by trial and error and the application of common sense. In addition to monitoring and maintaining where possible the condition of redds, in particular by being able to prevent excessive access to the riverbank by stock, which avoids degradation of the riverbank and consequent silting, we have also sought to increase the territories available for young salmon, thereby increasing the size of the smolt run. I recognise that I am very fortunate as a sole owner to be able to act—I hope—as a beneficial dictator. Clearly, on larger rivers with multi-ownership and many differing interests, it is far more difficult to gain the necessary consensus to achieve the actions necessary for habitat conservation and improvement. I emphasise that this is an area where much more work of extreme benefit to fisheries can be done.

As the beneficiary of the hereditary principle, not only in your Lordships' House but also in fisheries management, it would be impossible for me to take part in a debate on this subject without referring to netting. I was particularly pleased to read in the report that the proposed strategy took into account the legitimate interests of all who benefited from the salmon resource, including netsmen. I have a clear interest here as the owner of a number of netting stations. However, the estuary netting on the Thurso is a vital element in the total management of our resource. Quite apart from employment and other benefits which accrue from the activity, I average a bottom line profit which is used entirely to pay for the majority of work undertaken each year in maintaining the river and employing watching staff. The simple truth is that on this river without that income it would not be possible to undertake the environmental management or river-watching activities by water bailiffs which contribute so much to maintaining the overall prosperity of the enterprise. Furthermore, it is highly unlikely that any significant increase in a rod catch can take place as a result of closing the net operation. Consequently, it would be impossible to replace the lost revenue which is so vital to us.

Both the noble Lord, Lord Moran, and the noble Earl, Lord Haig, touched on the economics. I am also in the very fortunate position of owning a hotel where fishermen stay. I have a kind of monopoly. Therefore, I have a total interest in getting the maximum economic benefit, because wherever it comes from I will get it. It seems to me that the economics depend upon the assumption that for every extra fish that goes into the river there will be another angler to catch it. I believe that the lucky anglers on the Thurso will just end up catching a lot more fish. I would not have a penny more but would merely have lost quite a lot of money.

However, the following two general observations about netting are perhaps more important than the economic value to the river. First, I echo a sentiment of the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell. He referred to the increase in illegal netting as a result of netting stations stopping. The bailiff of the Caithness District Fisheries Board, who is also the river superintendent on the Thurso, is of the opinion that where traditional netting stations on the north coast have closed they have been replaced by illegal sea fishing operations. His estimate is that there are now far more fish being caught illegally off the north coast of Scotland than were ever taken by legal means. Where a legal netting station exists the owner or tenant of that station has a strong interest in protecting his property and rights, and consequently keeps a watchful eye on it. Once the netting station has been bought out he has no further interest and consequently it becomes much easier for the poacher to operate. Obviously, the poacher wishes to maximise his gain by using the most efficient nets available and fishing at the best time for his operation, whereas the legal fisherman by and large operates within the law. This is perhaps an unforeseen result of the buying out of netting stations, and it is one I should like to see studied further. I submit that it is better to have a legal netting station subject to proper rules and control, correctly exploiting the resource, than to have a large scale illegal sea poaching operation.

The second, and perhaps more contentious, observation is that most netsmen, particularly in the north of Scotland, are locals, whereas most anglers are perceived by those locals to be rich and from the South. There is a degree of resentment in local communities where long-established traditional net fishing is being stamped out for the benefit of the few. This creates a wholly unnecessary social divide; we must be very careful to guard against it. I believe that all those who have a legitimate interest should have a seat at the table. I urge the more hysterical elements of the angling community—if I may use that expression—to think long and hard before they vilify all netsmen.

I turn to stocking. I was fascinated by this section of the report. I was particularly interested to note the dangers of introducing to a river genetically unsound stock. It was something of which I had been unaware. On the Thurso we have our own hatchery. After the fishing season is over in October we take sufficient ova to produce approximately 150,000 fry which we put in the river the following season. We have reduced the number of ova that we have taken over the years. Whereas in the 1960s and 1970s we sold fry to other rivers, we now take only what we require to stock the Thurso. That is an example of our management technique changing by trial and error and subsequently discovering that it is sound in scientific terms.

I was interested to hear of the concept of trapping; it is something I should like to examine on my river. One interesting change we have implemented recently concerns the location at which we net the brood stock. For many years it was traditional to fish in one or two fords on the river. Our river superintendent noticed that there was almost no natural spawning at those points thereafter. About four or five years ago he introduced a policy of leaving various fords fallow and fishing the whole of the river in rotation. The result of that is that we appear to have stopped doing the damage that was taking place and natural spawning has now returned to fords which were previously barren.

I was interested to read of the dangers of introducing genetically different stock. For a number of years in the mid-1970s my father donated annually 10,000 fry from the Thurso which were placed in the Thames at Teddington. I should like to hope that in a small way that contributed to the return of salmon to the Thames, although I now wonder what the consequences of that action might be. I wonder whether it would be an interesting subject to study. Presumably one could do that by examining the DNA of salmon in the Thurso and salmon in the Thames. Again I echo the views of the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell. We need to know much more about stocking. It is clear that owners, too, need to know more.

One of the most important areas touched upon in the document is the pressing need for national co-operation in our own country and international management. Whereas there is a strong case for a properly regulated and maintained traditional coastal, and, particularly, estuary netting, I believe that deep-sea exploitation of multi-source salmon is a more recent development and extremely dangerous. However well I or any other fishery manager tends his habitat and manages his fishery, if large sea catches are being made all that good work can be for nothing. I support wholeheartedly the noble Viscount's call not merely for a national but an international strategy.

I had the pleasure recently of entertaining Mr. Orri Vigfusson to tea in your Lordships' House and of hearing from him the excellent work he has done in buying off the deep sea fisheries. That is clearly an area where a contribution by the Government would be beneficial.

One of the benefits of the district fishery board system in Scotland is that we can raise rates and use those funds to pay for the activities we wish to undertake. In Caithness, we are using William Shearer, who is referred to in the report—he is one of the sources—to undertake a study of our different river habitats, going around each of the rivers in the district over a period of about five years. I do not know whether there is anything to be learned in England in Wales from the way in which we raise our finance in Scotland, but we seem to have the benefit of a slightly more sensible system.

This has been a truly fascinating debate. I shall be reading it again in Hansard to ensure that I have taken it all in. I thank the noble Viscount for giving us the opportunity to discuss his excellent document. It is in the clear interests of all of those involved in the exploitation of the salmon resource, be they owners, operators, anglers, netsmen or the general public, to ensure that the resource is sustained and improved. We must all work together to achieve that common objective. The strategy document is an excellent blueprint for realising that goal.

7.54 p.m.

My Lords, this is a unique occasion in my experience. The noble Viscount, Lord Mills, whom I congratulate both on the NRA strategy document, of which he is the author, and on the manner in which he introduced it, was successful in the Ballot for Motions for Debate, and chose his own document for that purpose. That has enabled your Lordships to return to a favourite topic, even though limited to England and Wales, with allusions to other important countries and distant waters fisheries.

The occasion is even more historic, having regard to the origins of the NRA. Some would describe the NRA as a quango, but it was, by custom and use, more than just that. Indeed, it nearly became an estate of the realm. Noble Lords will recall that the NRA was the product of second thoughts at a time when there was much justifiable criticism of proposals for privatising the regional water authorities. The public rightly criticised the idea of water plcs being judge and jury in their own cause. Subsequent criticism of various aspects of the operation of those plcs shows that the Minister then concerned was wise to think again and to legislate for the establishment of the NRA.

We have now entered a new phase in the NRA's role with the creation of the Environment Agency in England and Wales from 1st April 1996. The strategy document acknowledges that at page 1, when it says that the Environment Act 1995 will undoubtedly influence future salmon management. In the light of tonight's discussion, we need some indication of the resources which the Environment Agency will make available to the NRA for the work it is doing. My impression about the likelihood of adequate resources is slightly unfavourable in the light of what has been said about that aspect.

The position of Scotland is also of interest to us. At page 3, the document commits the NRA, MAFF and the Welsh Office to liaise with the Scottish Office and the Northern Ireland Department of Agriculture about matters affecting salmon fisheries in the UK. The noble Earl, Lord Haig, and the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, have given us an update on the current position in Scotland, but for those who see it from a distance we should still like to be aware of what changes in the provision and supply of water in Scotland, comparable to those which gave birth to the NRA in England and Wales, are now under way. Can one ask whether there are to be any changes to present arrangements for Scottish salmon rivers of which the House should take note in our deliberations this evening? It has been urged, quite rightly, by the noble Lord, Lord Moran, that we need a four-nation policy covering salmon in order to deal adequately with the whole question.

The NRA strategy sets out four objectives for the future management of salmon fisheries, and subsequently examines them in some detail. It claims that that is a new approach involving target setting, stock monitoring and performance of fisheries. No claim is made for completeness in such regards, and variation in salmon numbers, year on year, is acknowledged for both fresh and sea water. Such caution should at least allow your Lordships' House to continue its annual discussion on the effectiveness of salmon management.

Funding and the provision of resources are naturally at the heart of the strategy. Her Majesty's Government are asked to continue paying for law enforcement and repair of historic and unattributable damage to fisheries as well as direct and indirect benefits that the public receive from salmon. The EU funding for management activities under the habitats directive is discussed as a possible resource. Her Majesty's Government's response to those financial probings will be of interest to your Lordships, even if there is no definitive answer tonight.

Objective 4 at page 7 points out that grant-in-aid effectively funds 80 per cent. of expenditure on salmon and sea trout fisheries. It then considers the relative contribution by direct participants in those fisheries—that is, rods, nets and owners—as compared to that made by government. That section, while looking to contributions by developers of barrages or reservoirs, which may have a detrimental effect on salmon, and towards pre-and post-impact studies, including the NRA's costs, seem to expect such work to be at least part publicly funded. The justification for that is that much damage to salmon fisheries, not exclusively historic, is unattributable. In today's climate for public finance, it may be that expectations should not be pitched too high, even if strongly pressed.

The section dealing with fishery-based management actions will undoubtedly attract much attention—as it has already done this afternoon—and especially the section on net fisheries.

The NRA finds current administrative procedures to promote orders or change by-laws cumbersome—a point echoed by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell—and promises discussions with MAFF about the possibility of simplification or streamlining. The strategy of rapid response to introduce or relax fishery control measures is canvassed, including the feasibility of promoting legislation to acquire such powers. One is always wary of proposals for legislation, at least until one has seen a Bill. Old hands will recognise the importance of pre-consultation in such areas, as well as a sympathetic ministerial ear and a gap in the legislative timetable.

The question of drift-net fishing is ever present—it has made its appearance yet again tonight—and one hopes that the NRA policy declaration on exploitation at page 16, which believes that the exploitation of single river stocks and the phasing out of mixed river stocks over an appropriate timescale will meet with acceptance at least in principle.

Most noble Lords will welcome the firm tone of the strategy's reference to the drift-net fishery operating around the southern, western and north-western coasts of Ireland. As paragraph 1.2.2 at page 24 clearly shows, this is an unwelcome growth area from a United Kingdom standpoint. The NRA recommendation to the Government for the phasing out of this mixed stock fishery deserves a sympathetic ministerial reply.

The noble Viscount, Lord Mills, expressed a belief that a north-eastern buy-out of those drift-net fisheries would strengthen our hand in dealing with Ireland. Of course, I take on board the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Crickhowell, that the more we talk about such a buy-out the higher the ultimate cost will be.

Perhaps I may raise a matter of some concern which reached me only this afternoon; namely, problems arising from the spread of the oil slick from the "Sea Empress" in Milford Haven which created a sea trout problem. This slick spread from Carmarthen Bay to Aberystwyth. Rivers affected include the Towy, the Teifi, the Ystwyth and its tributary the Rheidol. Those are important for sea trout and are now closed for fishing with no date to re-open. For Wales, such rivers provide game fishers with more exciting fishing than for salmon. Their closure causes losses of tourist trade. For instance, I am told that one US syndicate has fishing rights on the lower reaches of the Towy to fish for sea trout from now until October and may cancel its rights if the river is out for the season. I am also told that Towy sea trout are in many instances severely damaged and show signs of swimming through heavily polluted sea to spawn. Damaged fish have signs of burning on their skin, which is the result of swimming in polluted sea. The policy for salmon may be all right but what about sea trout? Can the Minister say or write to me as regards what the NRA and/or the Environment Agency are doing about the resultant damage to Welsh coastal and inland waters caused by the "Sea Empress" incident?

The Motion before us tonight is to call attention to the NRA's strategy document and to move for Papers. On the assumption that, as is customary, it is subsequently and with the leave of the House withdrawn, one wonders what will happen now. I hope that we may have a reply to that question. The noble Viscount has produced at the right time a document which, if not for bedside reading, will be a resource for some years to come.

8.3 p.m.

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Mills for providing this opportunity to debate the National Rivers Authority's salmon management strategy. It is an important and ambitious exercise which, taken with the strategy currently being prepared for Scotland, will do much to safeguard salmon in Great Britain and to ensure their sustainable development. I know that my noble friend played a major role in preparing the strategy and I congratulate him warmly on it. It certainly taught me a thing or two.

I am also grateful to my noble friend Lord Crickhowell for elaborating on the strategy and for his comments on some of the points which noble Lords have made.

The idea of a Great Britain salmon management strategy, which the noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, the noble Earl, Lord Radnor, and the noble Lord, Lord Moran, raised, has its attractions but we do not believe that a single strategy would be the best way to proceed, given the differences in the nature of fisheries north and south of the Border and in the way that they are administered and regulated. However, the separate strategies for England, Wales and Scotland, will need to be co-ordinated.

As your Lordships know, the strategy serves two distinct purposes. It sets out clearly the way in which the NRA believed that its own salmon management responsibilities should be carried out and it gives the NRA's views on how policy on salmon management should develop. It will be for the new agency to decide how best to carry this work forward. Nevertheless, the Government consider that the NRA's proposals are sensible and believe that they provide the Environment Agency with a sound basis from which to carry out its own management responsibilities.

We particularly endorse the concept of the setting of spawning targets for individual rivers. These, together with enhanced monitoring of stock levels, will ensure that the future regulation and management of salmon fisheries is on a more consistent and scientific basis than hitherto. The maintenance and improvement of water quality and the improvement of habitat will also benefit significantly salmon stocks and salmon fisheries.

The Government share the NRA's view on the importance of maintaining the diversity of salmon stocks. We are also pleased that the strategy recognises the need to protect and enhance stocks of spring run salmon. The importance of this was highlighted in the Salmon Advisory Committee's report on the run timing of salmon.

There will of course continue to be a need to regulate fishing for salmon in both the net and rod fisheries. Each case will have to be considered on its merits. We nevertheless support fully the NRA's policy of phasing out predominantly mixed stock fisheries; that is, fisheries which exploit stocks from a number of different river systems. This policy is consistent with the measures adopted in the north-east coast drift-net fishery following the Government's 1991 report on salmon net fisheries.

I know that there are those who consider that mixed stock fisheries should be phased out more quickly. We do not believe that such action can be justified where there is no immediate threat to stocks. The reasons for our position were set out clearly by my noble friend Lord Lucas in the debate on this issue in December last year and I will not repeat them now. However, I must stress that if stocks are threatened further action will clearly need to be taken. Similarly, if the level of exploitation in a rod fishery were to pose a threat to stocks additional restrictions would have to be considered.

The noble Lord, Lord Mason, raised the issue of the north-east coast drift-net fishery. Our policy on that was set in previous debates and most recently by my noble friend Lord Lucas in the debate on salmon drift netting on 5th December. I am sure that your Lordships know the whole policy off by heart, so do not expect me to repeat it again. Suffice it to say that the policy remains unchanged. Nevertheless, we and the NRA are continuing to monitor the fisheries, and action will be taken if catches in the fishery threaten stocks. In the meantime, if others see a benefit in a faster phase-out, there is nothing to stop them from negotiating a compensation arrangement with the netsmen.

My noble friend Lord Mills asked about the relative cost to the public purse of maintaining the north-east coast drift-net fishery as compared with ending it and also whether the Government might consider diverting any savings that might arise as a result of ending the fishery into a compensation scheme for the netsmen. The NRA has said that the ending of the drift-net fishery would result in only modest savings in its expenditure. It is estimated that the cost of checking boats in the licensed fishery to be around £15,000 a year. It has made the point that that amount would not necessarily be saved if the fishery were to come to an end. There would still be a need to protect salmon stocks, including those returning to rivers in Scotland, from illegal fishing off the coast, and that would reduce the scope for actual savings. In view of that, we do not believe that diverting savings into a compensation fund is a particularly promising option. However, the phase-out of the fishery has been carried out in a way which would enable those who see benefit in a fast phase-out to negotiate private agreements with the netsmen concerned under which they would surrender their licences in return for compensation. I understand that certain interests are looking at the feasibility of such an agreement.

The strategy also considers the management of salmon stocks outside of the NRA's area of jurisdiction and looks in particular at the Faroes and Greenland fisheries and the drift-net fishery operating off the coast of Ireland. The regulation of the Faroes and Greenland fisheries is a matter for the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation. One of its principal purposes is the establishment of the quotas for these fisheries. The setting of spawning targets for principal English and Welsh salmon rivers will aid this process.

The noble Viscount, Lord Thurso, called on the Government to contribute to the cost of the buyout of the Greenland and Faroes fisheries. Those fisheries are subject to quotas set by the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation. The buyout of those quotas is largely a private matter between the North Atlantic Salmon Fund and the fishermen concerned. The Government take the view that it is up to those who see a benefit in going beyond management measures agreed in NASCO to organise and fund that themselves. It is not something on which we could justify spending taxpayers' money, especially at a time when we are committed to reducing public expenditure.

As to the future of the Irish drift-net fishery, this is a matter for the Irish authorities. As my noble friend Lord Lucas explained in the debate on salmon drift-netting, the Irish Government have established a task force to consider practical long term strategies for salmon management with a view to developing a system for the sustainable management of stocks. In this context, my right honourable friend the Minister of State for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food drew the attention of the Irish Government to our policy on mixed stock fisheries and the means by which we are phasing them out, and suggested that they might wish to consider a similar approach. I understand that the Irish Government are currently considering the report of their task force with a view to taking a decision on future policy.

My noble friend Lord Haig suggested that the NRA's views on the Irish drift-net fishery are not entirely consistent with its policy towards the net fisheries operating in the coastal waters around England and Wales. However, it is clear from the strategy that there is no conflict. The NRA's policy was to phase out those fisheries which exploit predominantly mixed stocks, and that is the policy that it would like to see adopted in the Irish fishery.

The Government have also noted the NRA's views on the future development of salmon policy. A number of the measures it suggests would require changes to the law, and we will certainly consider these in any future review of the legislation governing the regulation and management of salmon and freshwater fisheries. However, any changes must be consistent with the Government's wider policies. This is particularly relevant in relation to the NRA's recommendations on carcass tagging and salmon dealer licensing which were mentioned specifically by my noble friend Lord Mills and the noble Lord, Lord Moran. The possibility of introducing such measures was considered in some depth by the Government in the late 1980s. They concluded, however, that there were practical difficulties with both schemes and that they would place undue burdens on business. This latter consideration is even more relevant today, given the Government's current policy of avoiding additional regulation wherever possible and keeping burdens on business to a minimum. We are therefore unlikely to change our views on these ideas unless we are presented with convincing new arguments.

The strategy goes on to address two other areas of policy which are particularly contentious: resource allocation and the financing of the NRA's and agency's expenditure on migratory salmonid fisheries. There are, I know, some who consider that recreational rod fisheries should have preferential, or even sole, access to the salmon resource. The strategy looks at this issue in some detail. It also notes that the NRA does not have the power to seek a reduction in netting effort simply in order to increase the share of the catch taken by anglers. Its powers to regulate exploitation, which have been inherited by the agency, may only be used where there is a need to conserve or improve the management of stocks.

This is clearly an issue which will have to be considered in any future review of legislation. But, as the strategy document makes clear, this is a complex area, and the arguments for change will have to be considered very carefully, particularly as any change could involve the further restriction or even complete removal of a public right dating back to the Magna Carta, in favour of private rights. This is not something that should be undertaken lightly.

The question of funding is also a complex one, as I believe my noble friend Lord Mills acknowledged. This year, something like 80 per cent. of the agency's expenditure on migratory salmonid fisheries will be financed by the Government from grant-in-aid. The Government remain committed to paying grant-in-aid in support of the agency's fisheries function. But the public purse is not bottomless, and there are many competing demands for resources which need to be balanced. This inevitably means that those who benefit from the agency's work will need to make a greater contribution to its cost.

The NRA has already made some steps in this direction. It has increased the level of licence duties for fishing for migratory salmonids with rod and line. And it has embarked on a rationalisation of net licence duties which will involve significant increases for many licence holders. These changes were the subject of consultation and were subsequently approved—with modifications in the case of the net licence duties—by my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State for Wales. Their decisions are the subject of an application for judicial review which has been lodged by the Salmon and Trout Association. Therefore, I must tell the noble Lord, Lord Mason, that I cannot go further on that subject.

I note the comments of my noble friend Lord Crickhowell on the need for grant-in-aid. The Government accept that much of the work done by the Environment Agency's fishery function, and by the NRA before it, cannot be attributed to any specific groups or individuals. They accept also that the agency spends considerable sums of money on enforcing the law. The grant-in-aid paid to that fishery function reflects that. But the division between those activities which should be publicly funded and those which should be paid for by the beneficiaries of the agency's fishery function is not clear cut.

For example, in Scotland the enforcement activities of the District Salmon Fisheries Board is funded by fishery owners. Nor should the Government necessarily pay for the repair of what is sometimes referred to as historic damage to fisheries. Those who owned the fishing rights at the time may well have been responsible for and benefited from the activities which gave rise to the damage in the first place.

The amount of money which can be raised from duties on rod and net licences is clearly limited. The agency will therefore have to consider alternative sources of income. Levying contributions from owners of salmon fishing rights is one option which is being considered by the agency. But it may be necessary to carry out a more fundamental review of the way in which salmon fisheries are managed and funded. This is something which the agency will have to reflect on.

My noble friend Lord Kimball raised concerns about the stripping of salmon. I am sure that my noble friend Lord Mills will take account of those views and take them back with him to the Environment Agency.

The noble Lord, Lord Mason, and my noble friends Lord Kimball, Lord Radnor and Lord Haig all mentioned cormorants. We are well aware of concerns about the effect of predation by cormorants and sawbills on salmon and freshwater fish and I shall write to my noble friend Lord Radnor about herons. As I am sure noble Lords are aware, cormorants and sawbills are both protected by EC legislation and in the UK by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. The Act makes provision for birds to be shot under licence in cases where they are causing serious damage to fisheries, but only as an aid to scaring where other methods of non-lethal scaring have been shown to be ineffective or impractical.

I know that there are those who would like to see a cull. However, equally, there are those who believe that shooting is unjustified. However, the Government must work within the constraints of the law. If the law is to be changed, then it needs to be demonstrated that the existing arguments are not sufficient to protect fisheries from serious damage. That is why the Government have commissioned a major R&D programme over three years to look at all aspects of the problem. I shall tell my noble friend Lord Kimball that the Government continue to support a wide programme of research, which includes research into the diets and behaviour of seals.

I note the concern of my noble friend Lord Radnor about the plight of the southern chalk streams. They are suffering particular difficulties. Both we and the agency are aware of that and are investigating ways to address the issue. However, I agree that it is important that the agency should consult with local riparian owners and anglers, and take account of the views expressed.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Haig for reminding us of the need to pay attention to the fate of salmon at sea. Monitoring salmon at sea presents particular problems and is expensive. Nevertheless, the research and development programme of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food includes projects which consider factors affecting salmon at sea.

I have not dealt with many of the questions that were raised, but I am faced with the usual problem of time. Moreover, I might just bore your Lordships. Therefore, I shall write to all those noble Lords whose questions I have not answered, and I apologise to them for not doing so tonight. However, I believe that the NRA has provided a firm foundation upon which the Environment Agency can build. It really is to be congratulated.

8.22 p.m.

My Lords, I first thank all noble Lords who have taken part in tonight's debate. I believe that your Lordships have made a stimulating and quite fascinating contribution to the ongoing salmon debate. I am most grateful for the wide support given to the strategy and for the kind comments which have been made to me. However, I should like to take the opportunity to acknowledge my NRA colleagues without whom the document would not have been produced and with whom the much greater responsibility of implementing it lies.

I shall not attempt to try even to address the perceptive points raised by many noble Lords. However, I am sure that they will be widely discussed outside the House. I hope that they will be fully considered both by the Government and by the Environment Agency. I should like just to pick up on one point mentioned by my noble friend Lord Radnor regarding the fact that the strategy may be 10 years too late. I hope that my noble friend is wrong in that respect; but I feel that we should heed his advice and act quickly.

I also thank my noble friend the Minister. I am glad to hear of the Government's general endorsement of the strategy. However, I was disappointed to hear from my noble friend that she was not optimistic about the opportunities for diverting funds into decommissioning the north-east drift-net fishery. I was also disappointed by my noble friend's comments on dealer licensing and carcass tagging. I say that because there is clearly widespread support for those very sensible and cost-effective measures. I wonder why the Government are not at least prepared to reconsider those two measures. I must also say that I was disappointed by other aspects in my noble friend's response, especially on the matter of funding. However, for now I shall just have to remain disappointed.

Within the strategy, the NRA calls for a vigorous debate about the management issues surrounding our salmon. I am glad that part of that debate has taken place within this House and that I have had the privilege to participate in it. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.

Sexual Orientation Discrimination Bill Hl

8.25 p.m.

Read a third time.

Clause 2 [ Interpretation]:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the amendment, I shall, for the convenience of the House, speak also to Amendment No. 2 which is consequential. So far as concerns the English language, Acts of Parliament ought to set the highest possible standards. Those responsible for drafting statutes should resist siren voices urging them to lower standards whether for populist or any other reasons. The word "homosexuality" derives from a Greek word meaning same and not from the Latin word meaning man. For anyone who doubts that fact, perhaps they should consider the Italian translation, which is omosessualitá, not uomosessualitá, as would be the case if the word had anything to do with man or with "male".

To say without a prefix simply, homosexual or lesbian is, therefore, a tautology and the equivalent of saying "human beings or women" which, as I said last time, is considerably insulting to women. As a matter of fact, to incorporate the word "lesbian" itself in an Act of Parliament is cutting it a little fine as the word also means an inhabitant of the isle of Lesbos—whether they be homosexual or heterosexual. Indeed, in the Shorter Oxford Dictionary in the Library of the House which was published in 1973 that is the first definition given. However, I am prepared to give the noble Baroness and her friends the benefit of the doubt in that respect.

In Committee the noble Earl, Lord Russell, who I am sorry is not present in the Chamber this evening—I somehow assumed that he certainly would be—maintained that Acts of Parliament dealing with sexual matters should be framed in the language understood by the under 25s—presumably the sort of under 25s who wear baseball caps back to front. If that were taken to its logical conclusion, the possessive "its" in all such Bills would be spelt with an apostrophe, all punctuation marks other than commas would be eliminated, "fortuitous" would be used when "fortunate" was meant, "infer" would be employed when "imply" was intended, and so on. However, in reality, the young people about whom the noble Earl was concerned rarely, if ever, consult Acts of Parliament. They get their information elsewhere. Acts of Parliament are meant essentially for lawyers and, therefore, they need to be written in totally unambiguous English.

The noble Lord, Lord Airedale, whom we shall all miss, was a stickler for correct drafting and the proper use of English. As a tribute to Lord Airedale, perhaps the sponsors of the Bill might consider accepting the amendment: otherwise I shall have to test the opinion of the House. I beg to move.

My Lords, I am a little confused about the reasons given by the noble Lord for his amendment. When listening to the noble Lord on Second Reading, I thought that he was against the inclusion of the word "lesbian". I believed that he was against the inclusion of that word because he took the view that the word "homosexual" includes, as it were, the word "lesbian" regarding single-sex relations of both men and women. However, that is not what his amendment says. Indeed, the word "lesbian" is to be kept in.

The reason given by the noble Lord for what he seeks to do is that the word "homosexual" is rooted in the Greek. That, of course, follows the view that if you want to know what a word means then you go hack to the first people who used it. A word has roots that never change. Yet if one opens any good edition of the works of Shakespeare at any page one finds that at least 10 of the words on that page need to be described in the footnotes because they no longer mean what they meant when Shakespeare used them. Words do not have roots; words have uses, and uses change.

One can consult a dictionary. A dictionary freezes the use of a word at the time when the dictionary was published, or at the time when the word was researched when it was entered in the dictionary. The noble Lord is right in a sense about the word "homosexual". The Oxford English Dictionary expresses well the word's tell-tale ambiguity. The dictionary states that "homosexual" means:
"A sexual propensity for one's own sex".
It does not specify which sex, or both, or either. It states:
"A sexual propensity for one's own sex".
When the word was used in 1897 there was a great deal of ambiguity about what "homosexual" meant as a word. I am sure that many Members of the House know that when it was first decided that homosexuality should be made a criminal offence the government wanted to make it clear that that applied to both sexes. However, the Queen said she could not imagine that it applied to women; therefore it does not apply to women in the sense that, in the law, it is not a criminal offence as regards women. Therefore "homosexual" is an ambiguous word which can mean different things.

I believe those women who wanted to campaign for sexual orientation to be made more accepted—and for it not to be discriminated against—felt that they wanted to make it quite clear that they were talking about themselves. Therefore they introduced the word "lesbian". If the noble Lord was really consistent he would either remove "lesbian" or he would include "gay". I am sure that many people outside this House will refer to this Bill as a Bill to prevent discrimination against gays and lesbians. Those are the phrases in the vernacular. "Homosexual" is a word in the dictionary; it is ambiguous in the dictionary. I do not know why the noble Lord has tabled the amendment and how it is supposed to clarify anything. I think I understand why the noble Lord has not included the word "gay" because of course that makes my point again that one cannot refer back to ancient usage. One cannot refer back to old dictionary definitions because the dictionary states—I cannot find a dictionary that states anything better than this—that "gay" means,
"full of or disposed to joy".
I suggest that that is not what it means in the vernacular. In the Bill we must have words which reflect the vernacular. I think that the words in this Bill reflect that rather well.

8.30 p.m.

My Lords, the noble Lord tabled similar amendments at the Committee stage of the Bill. I said then that I was not happy about them. I make no secret of the fact that I should like my Bill to pass unamended this evening. I have sympathy with the desire of the noble Lord to ensure respect for the English language. As I said, he made similar points at an earlier stage in the Bill. However, I also believe—as does my noble friend Lord McCarthy—that legislation should be worded in such a way as to be comprehensible, particularly to those who are likely to be affected by it. I know that that is sometimes difficult because the language also has to be capable of interpretation in court, but language itself—as the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, said—is not set in tablets of stone. It is constantly changing and evolving. Words now appear in the English dictionary that were not there at all some 20 or 30 years ago or, if they were, they now bear a different meaning.

The wording used in the Bill is comprehensible to the people who are most likely to be affected by it and who look to it to provide them with some sort of legal protection against what they feel is unjustified discrimination. The Bill has been drafted for me by lawyers working for the Stonewall Group of which I am a member. It is a parliamentary group dedicated to the removal of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation. We have set out in the Bill precisely what we mean by that term. I hope therefore that the noble Lord will not press his amendment this evening. I take it that the mere fact he has tabled amendments to my Bill means that he has no quarrel with the main thrust of it; otherwise it would not be worth tabling amendments at all. I assure him, however, that those most likely to be affected by this Bill prefer the wording unamended. I hope that that will cause him not to press the amendments this evening.

My Lords, I thank both speakers who have contributed so far to the debate. I must say I am surprised that the Government have not said what their views are because, after all, they are probably the ultimate guardians of the English language, as they are in charge of a Bill when it is finally on its way to the statute book.

I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, was not present at the Committee stage. He was obviously busy. However, I am more sorry that he has not taken the trouble to read the Committee stage proceedings because, if he had, he would understand why I am moving the amendment. He is absolutely right. At Second Reading I said that I preferred the elimination of the word "lesbian". However, being a fair minded and reasonable person I always try to compromise and I thought that I would try to meet the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, half way and include "lesbian", although I do not entirely like it. However, it is certainly not as ambiguous as leaving the wording in the Bill as it stands.

I hope, and suppose, that the noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, was joking when he suggested including the word "gay" in the Bill. I suppose that is the path down which we are descending. I have to say to him that millions of people throughout the English speaking world resent very much the perversion of that word. I could not care less what consenting adults do in the privacy of their houses provided that—as our Edwardian forebears used to say—they do not do it in the street and frighten the horses. But I object to them messing about with the English language and putting pressure to bear upon well-meaning sponsors of the Bill—I accept that the noble Baroness is extremely well meaning—to go along with over-rigid and dogmatic views. Although it probably will not do any good I wish to test the opinion of the House.

On Question, amendment negatived.

Clause 6 [ Equal Pay Act 1970]:

had given notice of his intention to move Amendment No. 2:

Page 3, line 17, at end insert ("male").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, we went through the arguments for this amendment in some detail five weeks ago. I do not intend to repeat the arguments again. Suffice it to say that if service chiefs—to lapse into journalese—are firmly convinced that—

My Lords, I hope I may interrupt the noble Lord. I think he is speaking to Amendment No. 3. I got the gist of that from what he was beginning to say. I hope that he will not move Amendment No. 2 and will move on to Amendment No. 3.

My Lords, I apologise. Of course the noble Lord is absolutely right. I shall not move Amendment No. 2.

[ Amendment No. 2 not moved.]

moved Amendment No. 3:

After Clause 6, insert the following new clause—


(" . Nothing in this Act applies to any person serving as a member of the naval, military or air forces of the Crown or to any person employed by an association established for the purposes of Part VI of the Reserve Forces Act 1980.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I shall start again from scratch. We went through the arguments for this amendment in some detail five weeks ago and I do not intend to repeat them again. Suffice it to say that if service chiefs—to lapse into journalese—are firmly convinced, as they seem to be, that to abolish the ban on homosexuals in the Armed Forces would adversely affect the morale, discipline and effectiveness of those forces, that should be good enough for anyone.

There are two points I nevertheless wish to make in response to the arguments—or, I suppose, counter-arguments if one is being specific—that the noble Baroness, Lady Turner, made on a previous occasion. She pointed out that homosexuals, like women, could still be excluded from combat duties if the Bill goes through in another place unamended. Theoretically I am sure she is right but practically I guess that it would be an administrative nightmare. After all women are easily identifiable in an emergency. Homosexuals generally cannot be identified unless they wear some sort of identifying badge. In view of what happened in the 1930s and 1940s, I am sure we would not want that for one single second. Homosexuals could, of course, be confined to the catering corps or similar non-combatant units; but that in itself might be judged to be an act of discrimination.

The noble Baroness went on to say that, since the issue is currently being considered by a Commons Select Committee, and indeed elsewhere in the Commons, this House should not interfere. The fact that the Commons quite rightly has the last word does not preclude us from expressing our opinion, which the other place can accept, reject or ignore as it chooses.

There is another aspect to the matter. If the Bill goes through unamended today, theoretically it could be on the statute book next month, before the Commons Select Committee has finished its deliberations. We should then have pre-empted the committee's findings. It is surely better to put the matter on ice until the other place has reported, thereby avoiding any possible clash between the two Houses. Accordingly, I beg to move.

My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Monson, made quite clear, and as was made clear by me when I had the honour to serve in the Ministry of Defence and by others in that department, homosexuality is incompatible with service life. I do not think it is necessary for me to rehearse on behalf of the Government the arguments that we have put before the House both at earlier stages of this Bill and when the matter has been debated on other occasions. Obviously, the issue will be the subject of discussions on the Armed Forces Bill in another place; it will come before this House and can be discussed at that time.

We have made our position in relation to this Bill fairly clear. We believe that it is neither necessary nor desirable. We hope that when it goes to another place, another place will look at it in the appropriate manner, and therefore it is probably unnecessary for amendments to the Bill to be moved at this stage. However, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Monson, is right to stress the rightness and correctness of the Government's stance on this particular issue. I hope that he will feel it unnecessary to divide the House, given the assurance that Her Majesty's Government, the Ministry of Defence, service chiefs and all involved certainly believe very strongly that their policy is the right one and should be pursued. I hope that the noble Lord will not feel it necessary to press his amendment.

My Lords, it gives me great pleasure very largely to agree with the Minister—if not with his reasons. My view, and the view on this side of the House, is that we would rather this amendment were not pressed because we do not want to settle the issue at all. We do not believe that the Bill as it stands does settle the issue. We believe that it should be left to the kind of processes that are going on in another place and through the courts. The noble Lord's amendment would settle the issue and make it impossible to change the present situation. That would be wrong. The subject is up for review; for that reason, we do not think that a decision embodied in this Bill is appropriate.

My Lords, I share the view just enunciated by my noble friend Lord McCarthy on the Front Bench. The noble Lord is making another attempt to import into this Bill a provision relating to the Armed Forces when, as I explained at earlier stages, the Bill seeks to deal with discrimination in public and private employment and not in the Armed Forces. It so happens that, as I made clear, I am against discrimination in the Armed Forces as well. It seems absurd to me that in times of war, when real danger exists and it is necessary for members of the Armed Forces to be able to rely absolutely on each other, in most circumstances we have conscription and the authorities do not bother much then about whether people are gay or lesbian. During the last war there were lots of instances of such liaisons; they were well known about. But nobody took any notice because everybody was united around the common danger and the need to work together to oppose it.

The main reason for my opposition this evening has already been stated. The issue will be debated in another place. It seems quite wrong for this House to pre-empt the discussions that will take place perhaps as early as next week in the other place on the whole issue of the Armed Forces and discrimination within them.

In this Bill, we attempt to remove fear of victimisation and discrimination from people who have done nothing wrong and whose only offence in the eyes of prejudiced people who have power over them at work is that their sexual preferences are not heterosexual ones. I therefore hope that the noble Lord, Lord Monson, will not press his amendment this evening but will take the advice offered by the Minister.

8.45 p.m.

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Henley, for his intervention. It was quite helpful.

The noble Lord, Lord McCarthy, implied that I wanted to settle the issue by preventing any relaxation of the ban as it stands. That is not the case at all. In substance, this amendment would not do that: it would in fact hold the matter open. It would simply mean that the question was held over. If the reference to the Armed Forces was not included in this Bill, it would not prevent any subsequent legislation from including it if both Houses of Parliament thought that was the proper thing to do.

If the Bill passes through this House unamended, and passes though the other place unamended before the Select Committee has had a chance to complete its report, it would mean that the issue was actually settled in the opposite direction. The service would be obliged to admit homosexuals, starting virtually right away. In view of the rather sanguine approach from the Government Benches, I can only suppose that there is perhaps a plan to see that, when the Bill reaches the other place, that does not actually happen. I cannot believe that they would wish the Bill to go through as it stands.

The noble Baroness talked, as others have done at earlier stages, about what happened in World War II. I accept what she said. I did not get into an argument on the general merits of admitting homosexuals because that was not the point. We discussed that last time. The only point I made was that nearly all senior officers think that lifting the ban is a bad idea. They know what they are talking about probably more than almost any of us here do. On balance, one should be prepared to accept their judgment: one does not have to, but as a general rule it seems the sensible thing to do. Since I have had no further support, I do not intend to press this matter. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

moved Amendment No. 4:

After Clause 6, insert the following new clause—


(" . Notwithstanding section 80(1) of the 1975 Act, nothing in this Act applies to employment for the purposes of a private household.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, now we return to what might be described as the "Englishman's home is his castle" amendment. Of course, that is not only true of the Englishman; the same is true for the Scot, the Welshman and the Ulsterman, who also regards his home as his castle.

It is no secret that I do not believe that any anti-discrimination legislation should apply to private households. If some individuals are so eccentric as to prefer to employ only red-haired, blue-eyed, left-handed, chain-smoking, Welsh-speaking women over six feet tall in their household, they should have the perfect right to do so—if they can find such individuals. They do have that right where self-employed people working in a house are concerned—builders, decorators, agency nurses, piano teachers, foreign language teachers and so on. So it is a slight anomaly that they do not when they employ somebody.

My view may be a minority one, although I doubt it. What I am certain is a majority view is that nobody should be forced to invite into their home, on either a permanent or a temporary basis, people whose personal habits they find distasteful. Whether, objectively, they are reasonable or unreasonable in that dislike is neither here nor there. That is what they feel as individuals. It is their home and, however irrational it may seem to others, they have the right to keep out people whom they do not like.

The noble Baroness suggested that acceptance of the amendment, which is the same as one which I moved at Report stage, might lead to a cleaner being sacked on suspicion of being a lesbian. I too deplore the idea of someone who is doing a good job being sacked in that way, but, frankly, the scenario is unrealistic. The supply: demand ratio for people doing that kind of work is such that anyone who is dismissed would find another job within 24 hours.

Nor should the dangers facing households which contain young people be ignored. It is all very well to claim that the Bill does not protect paedophiles. (Perhaps I have not searched hard enough but I cannot see that the Bill specifically excludes them.) The point is that an individual who lusts after a girl of 14 or 15 or a boy of 16 or 17 does not come into the category of paedophiles. If this clause is unamended it will be illegal not to employ such people.

Finally, I reiterate that the amendment cuts both ways. A homosexual couple who, perhaps understandably, wish to employ exclusively homosexuals have just as much right to their preferences as heterosexual couples who wish to employ only heterosexuals. I beg to move.

My Lords, I may not have heard the noble Lord correctly in his answer to the example given by the noble Baroness, Lady Turner. It concerned someone who might be dismissed for the imagined reason that the person was homosexual and he said that it would not matter. Even if it did occur, he said that in any case anyone who was dismissed could find a job within 24 hours. Is that the noble Lord's serious description of the present state of the labour market? Does he suggest that anyone who is dismissed can find a job within 24 hours?

My Lords, with the leave of the House, yes, if the person is doing that kind of job. There are always more people looking for employees to do jobs like cleaning than are available.

My Lords, all I can say is that that is not the labour market that I know. If there were far more people looking for jobs than there were jobs, it would show how important it is to keep the provision in the Bill. It would mean that the labour market was very dependent and that all the powers were with the employer and none with the worker.

I read in Hansard the Committee stage of the Bill and thought that at one point the noble Lord wondered how the provision got into the Bill. He said that once upon a time it was not the case for sex discrimination. The provision was put in because I am afraid of the EC. We were told that we could not have legislation like that and were made to put it in. The European Commission is quite right, because there is a dependent, subservient labour market in domestic servants and au pair girls. People can get away with murder. Those who go into that labour market need as much statutory protection as they can get.

My Lords, again the noble Lord put down a similar amendment to the one that he proposed at Committee and Report stages. Again, I asked that he should not press it because I see no reason for it. It seems to me that it is based on the assumption, which the noble Lord underlined in his contribution this evening, that there is likely to be more depravity leading to unacceptable behaviour in the case of someone who is gay or lesbian than with a heterosexual. Clearly that is rubbish.

He seems to suggest that it is all right to dismiss a cleaner because he or she turns out to be gay or lesbian. That is surely unfair and unacceptable. All it does is to pander to what I describe as tabloid prejudice. Furthermore, I point out, as I did earlier at the Committee stage, that the Bill is based very much on the legislation that we already have in regard to gender equality. The same provisions in regard to genuine occupational qualification exist in the Bill and are spelt out in Clause 3(2) of our Bill. That must be a safeguard. I hope, therefore, that the amendment will be withdrawn.

My Lords, I do not suggest that homosexuals are more depraved than heterosexuals, but that people have the right to say who shall come into their homes. If the Bill applied only to people who are already in employment I would be more sympathetic. One has a certain natural distaste when people are sacked when they are already in a job, but the Bill is not confined to that. It also applies to people who are seeking a job in the first place.

The noble Baroness said that the provision follows the example set by gender and so on. But surely she will agree that there is a difference between gender and sexual habits. People might not worry about one but feel strongly about the other. I believe that an Englishman's home is his castle and I am prepared to test the opinion of the House.

On Question, amendment negatived.

My Lords, I beg to move, That the Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Baroness Turner of Camden.)

On Question, Bill passed, and sent to the Commons.

Deregulation (Long Pull) Order 1996

8.56 p.m.

rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 18th March be approved [16th Report from the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee].

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this order is to be laid under the powers provided in the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994. It repeals Section 165 of the Licensing Act 1964 which makes it an offence to sell in licensed premises or registered clubs alcohol in excess of the amount requested.

Since the introduction of the "long pull" provision in 1921, prosecutions have been rare. The repeal of Section 165 will remove the risk of prosecution from licensees who serve over-measure.

The order has been examined fully since it was first laid before Parliament in draft form in November. No changes to the order have been proposed and it has been reported by the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee as in a form satisfactory to be submitted to this House for affirmative resolution. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 18th March be approved [ 16th Report from the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee].—( The Earl of Courtown.)

My Lords, I wish to speak to the order but first I must declare an interest. I am the owner of a fine hostelry, the Redesdale Arms, in Northumberland. The order has the full support of this side of the House. However, I cannot believe that there is much optimism that many landlords will make use of it. I asked my local landlord at the Albert in Primrose Hill whether he would give me more after the deregulation, but he was quite firm that I could expect no more than at present.

I wish to ask two questions of the Minister. First, he said that there had been rare prosecutions. Have there been any prosecutions under this regulation? Secondly, after a little research, I found that few people to whom I spoke knew that the regulation existed.

I wish to ask the Minister what plans the Government have on the idea of apprenticeships; that people between the ages of 16 and 18 should be able to serve behind the bar. Can the Minister say whether under the Government's guidelines there could be any form of training for 16 to 18 year-olds under supervision? An apprenticeship gives the impression of being a long-term job, but is this perhaps to be cheap labour?

My Lords, the noble Lord asked whether there had been any prosecutions under the order. I am told that two have arisen, but that could be a statistical error. He also mentioned the situation with apprentices in bars. Consultation on whether the deregulation order would allow apprentices aged 16 and 17 to be employed in bars was completed on 29th March this year. Ministers are now considering the outcome.

The noble Lord put some other questions. I shall go through some of the background, which will probably answer some of his queries.

At present the law contains a general prohibition on the employment of young people under the age of 18 in bars. The licensed trade argues that this restriction prevents them recruiting school-leavers on an equal footing with other employers. A programme for pub apprentices was approved by the then Department of Employment but cannot begin until the restriction on 16 and 17 year-olds working in bars is relaxed.

The approved schemes are specifically designed for school-leavers and will involve comprehensive registration and monitoring. Moreover, it will be a condition of apprenticeship that the apprentice will be supervised at all times. Before agreeing to provide support for an apprenticeship, employers will be assessed by the training and enterprise council on their ability to deliver quality training.

I hope that that satisfies the noble Lord. I commend the order to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund 1992 (Immunities And Privileges) Order 1996

9.1 p.m.

rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 17th April be approved [17th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move that the draft International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund 1992 (Immunities and Privileges) Order 1996 be approved.

A protocol amending the 1971 Fund Convention was agreed in 1992 and this will establish a new International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund. This will be a separate legal entity to be known as the 1992 fund. However, for practical purposes it will have the same director and staff and will work in much the same way as the existing fund. The intention is that the 68 member states to the existing fund will gradually denounce the 1971 Fund Convention and ratify the 1992 protocols, until eventually the existing fund is dissolved. Under the transitional provisions of the protocols, the United Kingdom will be a member of both funds simultaneously for a period of up to two years, before being required to denounce the 1971 Fund Convention.

The existing fund has its headquarters in the International Maritime Organisation's building in London, where it operates under the provisions of the IOPCF (Immunities and Privileges) Order which this House approved in July of that year. The 1992 fund will be based there too when the protocols come into force.

The draft order is necessary to give effect in UK law to the draft headquarters agreement negotiated in respect of the 1992 fund. I should like to indicate to the House that the privileges and immunities accorded are the same as those approved by your Lordships in July 1979 for the existing fund. I should also emphasise that we consider that they are no more than is necessary for the effective operation of the 1992 fund in the United Kingdom. They are granted in accordance with the limitations imposed by the International Organisations Act 1968, as amended, under whose provisions the order is made.

The scale of privileges and immunities is broadly similar to that accorded to most of the other international organisations having their headquarters here, except that the fund's immunity from suit is more limited in certain significant respects. For example, actions may be taken against the fund in the courts of this country in relation to the compensation provisions of the convention.

The order needs to be formally made at the meeting of the Privy Council on 15th May 1996, so that the headquarters agreement which will enter into force on signature, and the order, can come into force on 30th May. It is for that reason that the order is before your Lordships today.

The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments considered the draft instrument and had no comments.

I very much hope, therefore, that your Lordships will approve this draft order.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 17th April be approved [ 17th Report from the Joint Committee].—( Lord Chesham.)

My Lords, I thank the Minister for the explanation of the draft order. We on this side of the House fully support it. It is timely that the new fund should come into operation and we hope that the department will succeed in achieving that very quickly.

It might be useful at this stage, though not directly material to the point that the Minister made tonight—I gave him notice of this point and we agreed that it was perhaps a useful thing to do—to ask the Minister, in relation to the existing International Oil Pollution Compensation Fund, what is happening in relation to the damage that was caused by the "Sea Empress" incident recently. I know that the fund's executive committee, which met shortly after the "Sea Empress" incident, decided that the fund should make no compensation payments until the situation was clarified regarding the total amount of the claims. Then, I understand, the Government intervened and were able to broker an arrangement whereby compensation amounting to something like nearly £¼ million overall was paid. That certainly is a step that we believe it was proper for the Government to take.

On 16th April there was a decision made by the committee that the fund could start paying compensation to claimants after all, but that was restricted to 75 per cent. of the damage suffered on the part of any claimant; and, of course, what was material was the advice of the experts of the fund at the time that a payment was made. I believe that there was another intervention on the part of the Government which enabled a rather better arrangement to be made in the interim and a meeting was held at Milford Haven on 25th April, which was designed to take the matter further.

I should like to know whether the Minister is in a position to tell the House what happened on 25th April and whether any conclusions were reached that would enable further compensation to be paid.

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for giving me notice of his question. As he stated, it is slightly outside the remit of the order. I do not have details of what happened after 25th April. However, I shall make him aware of whatever I may do at another time, if I may do so. I commend the order to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House adjourned at seven minutes past nine o'clock.