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The Bill is rather disappointing, given that there was a pretty ferocious debate about what people had hoped for. Many hon. Members' core concern is that the reason why there is a lack of enthusiasm for patents in this country is that people do not have enough confidence that they can enforce them. The cost of enforcing patents is so great that is raises the question whether the cost of registering is justified. The Committee addressed that issue, and I am disappointed that the Minister, having been unable to accept one or two of the amendments that I proposedI understand the reason whywas not able to develop them in ways that would have met those concerns more than the Bill currently does.
First, we discussed frivolous patents, or vanity patents, and tried to suggest a way to deal with them so that the time, energy and cost were not expended on them. My hon. Friend the Member for Weston-super-Mare (Brian Cotter) entertained the House on Second Reading with examples not of bogus patentsthey were fully approvedbut of bizarre, irrelevant and rather unworkable ones. Secondly, I remain seriously concerned about the inequalities of defending patents for small and medium-sized companies. It was pointed out and not really challenged that the vast majority of new ideas come from small businesses, which may become larger businesses if they can patent the idea and develop that patent. I cited the example of Mandy Haberman, who invented the "anyway up" cup. I guess that, at the end of the day, she needed the benefit of the defence of her patent to maintain her business, but it cost her almost £1 million to achieve that. That is a good example, and I hope that new clause 1, which the Minister has just introduced, will help someone in that situation in the future, inasmuch as the allocation of the costs will be a little more equitable if one gets to the end of the process.
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The Bill, assuming that the House will approve it this afternoon, remains unfinished business. We must return to some issues if we are to ensure that the role, defence and legitimacy of patents are properly enshrined in future. There are serious concerns if people are not registering patents because it is too costly or they have no confidence in the system and if large companies[Interruption.]
Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but there must be quiet in the House. There may have been a late surge of interest in the debate, but it must be completed without disturbance.
Malcolm Bruce: Rarely has the House filled up so enthusiastically for a speech of mine as it has in the past couple of minutes. I simply want to conclude because I am anxious to ensure that the hon. Member with the Patent Office in his constituency has an opportunity to put on record his remarks on the Bill.
My final concern is that the Minister must continue to keep open the dialogue to try to find ways to ensure that there is confidence in the system, that the cost of registering is kept under control, that enforcement is kept within reasonable cost bounds that are fair and just for small and medium-sized business and that the process of attrition that large businesses can sometimes apply does not get out of hand. Of course, I welcome and support the small improvement that the Bill constitutes, but I hope that the Minister will acknowledge that this is not a closed book.
Paul Flynn: My hon. Friend the Minister can take consolation in the fact that his eloquence and the growing realisation of the Bill's importance has drawn hon. Members into the Chamber in such numbers. Only every 25 years does the House debate a Bill on patents, and it is right that hon. Members should have that experience at least once in their parliamentary careers.
On the vexed question that has dominated the proceedings on the Billthe pronunciation of the word "patent"it is not reasonable to make any assumption on how the Romans spoke their Latin. The pronunciation of the simple word "Davidus", which gave the two Welsh versions of the nameDafydd and Dewihas been deliberated for years. There can be no certainty about the interpretation of Roman pronunciation made by the right hon. Member for North-East Hampshire (Mr. Arbuthnot).
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It is a matter of great importance to my constituency that the Bill is passed. Of course, 2,000 years ago the Romans were in Newport, where the Patent Office is now, at a time when Europe had a common currency. It worthy of note that, after the collapse of the European union that existed in Roman times and the disappearance of that common currency, we entered the dark ages. That might well be a lesson for us all.
The Bill will do a great deal to modernise our patent service. Although the right hon. Member for North-East Hampshire was a bit sour in his negative comments at the end of his speech, he should note that one of our nation's great successes is our innovation and creativity, and we continue to be brilliant in coming up with new ideas and in building our stock of intellectual property. It was right to relocate the Patent Office to Newport, where it has been a huge success. The office's staff turnover in London was 17 per cent. It has now gone down to nil. The people who came from south-east London have settled happily there, and many of them have now retired and stayed in the area. This is a fine piece of legislation and we look forward to the House passing it without a Division.
Mr. Sutcliffe: With the leave of the House, I should like to respond to this excellent debate. The right hon. Member for North-East Hampshire (Mr. Arbuthnot) said that the Bill was not important, but just look at the House filling up, as hon. Members clamour to come in to hear the detail of the Bill, which is vital to industry. The hon. Gentleman will know that the science and innovation budget has been increased under the comprehensive spending review and that we have a commitment to ensure that British businesses improve.
We have had good debates on the Bill. As the right hon. Gentleman says, our commitment is to come in line with the European patent convention. That is vital to ensure that our patent system works, and all hon. Members agree with that. It is an important Bill. I am sorry that the hon. Member for Gordon (Malcolm Bruce) is not in his place. [Interruption.] Oh, he is in his place. I should have liked to accept many of his amendments, but they were found to be unworkable. I know that he appreciates the spirit in which we tried to resolve many of the complicated issues involved.
The Committee was visited by people from the patent reform group and others who wanted to share with us their expertise and views. We had to try to find a way to ensure that we were effective and efficient
It being half-past One o'clock, Mr. Speaker put the Question already proposed from the Chair, pursuant to Order [12 July].
The report provides an invaluable analysis of the general threat in respect of weapons of mass destruction and the potential acquisition of WMD by terrorists. Although it devotes much of its analysis to Iraq, it also goes into detail on the WMD threat posed by Iran, Libya, North Korea and A.Q. Khan. Some of the intelligence disclosed is made available for the first time and gives some insight into the reasons for the judgments that I and other Ministers have been making. I hope that the House will understand if I deal with it in some detail.
The hallmark of the report is its balanced judgments. It specifically supports the conclusions of Lord Hutton's inquiry about the good faith of the intelligence services and the Government in compiling the September 2002 dossier, but it also makes specific findings that the dossier and the intelligence behind it should have been better presented, had more caveats attached to it, and been better validated. It reports doubts that have recently arisen on the 45-minute intelligence, and says that in any event that should have been included in the dossier in different terms. However, it expressly supports the intelligence on Iraq's attempts to procure uranium from Niger in respect of its nuclear ambitions.
"the strategic intention of resuming the pursuit of prohibited weapons programmes, including if possible its nuclear weapons programme, when United Nations inspection regimes were relaxed and sanctions were eroded or lifted."
"In support of that goal, was carrying out illicit research and development, and procurement, activities, to seek to sustain its indigenous capabilities."
"Was developing ballistic missiles with a range longer than permitted under relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions".
Throughout the past 18 months, and throughout the rage and ferment of the debate over Iraq, there have essentially been two questions. One is an issue of good faithof integrity. This is now the fourth exhaustive inquiry that has dealt with the issue. This report, the Hutton inquiry, the report of the Intelligence and Security Committee before it, and that of the Foreign Affairs Committee before that, found the same thing. No one lied. No one made up the intelligence. No one inserted things into the dossier against the advice of the intelligence services. Everyone genuinely tried to do their best in good faith for the country in circumstances of acute difficulty. That issue of good faith should now be at an end.
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But there is another issue. We expectedI expectedto find actual usable chemical or biological weapons shortly after we entered Iraq. We even made significant contingency plans in respect of their use against our troops. UN resolution 1441, in November 2002, was passed unanimously by the whole Security Council, including Syria, on the basis that Iraq was a WMD threat. Lord Butler, in his report, says:
"We believe that it would be a rash person who asserted at this stage that evidence of Iraqi possession of stocks of biological or chemical agents, or even of banned missiles, does not exist or will never be found."
However, I have to accept that, as the months have passed, it has seemed increasingly clear that, at the time of invasion, Saddam did not have stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons ready to deploy. The second issue is therefore this: even if we acted in perfectly good faith, is it now the case that in the absence of stockpiles of weapons ready to deploy, the threat was misconceived and therefore the war was unjustified?
I have searched my consciencenot in a spirit of obstinacy, but in genuine reconsideration in the light of what we now knowto answer that question. My answer would be this: the evidence of Saddam's weapons of mass destruction was indeed less certain and less well founded than was stated at the time. However, I cannot go from there to the opposite extreme. On any basis, he retained complete strategic intent on WMD and significant capability. The only reason why he ever let the inspectors back into Iraq was that he had 180,000 US and British troops on his doorstep. He had no intention of ever co-operating fully with the inspectors, and he was going to start up again the moment the troops and the inspectors departed, or the sanctions eroded. I say further that if we had backed down in respect of Saddam, we would never have taken the stand that we needed to take on weapons of mass destruction, we would never have got the progress on Libya, for example, that we achieved, and we would have left Saddam in charge of Iraq, with every malign intent and capability still in place, and with every dictator with the same intent everywhere immeasurably emboldened.
As I shall say later, for any mistakes made, as the report finds, in good faith, I of course take responsibility, but I cannot honestly say that I believe that getting rid of Saddam was a mistake at all. Iraq, the region and the wider world are better and safer places without him. [Interruption.]
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