Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Lord Molloy: My Lords, while acknowledging the endeavours of the Minister, I ask him whether the term "land-mines" includes not only anti-tank mines but that sometimes more horrible weapon, the anti-personnel mine.

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, they are indeed extremely dangerous. It is on the clearance of the anti-personnel mines that the Overseas Development Administration has increased its spending from about £360,000 four years ago to nearly £6 million in the past financial year. We continue to support the Halo Trust and the Mines Advisory Group, as well as many other groups who are doing such important and very brave work overseas.

Lord Kennet: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House which were the countries principally responsible for frustrating the work of the conference?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I do not believe that it is very productive to start pointing fingers. However, they are both big countries and not exactly our friends in the past.

17 Oct 1995 : Column 670

Lord Taylor of Gryfe: My Lords, did I hear the Minister aright in saying that it was not realistic to ban the export of these devilish devices? Would she expand on why it is unrealistic for this country to give that kind of moral leadership in banning these mines?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the noble Lord will recall that a number of international borders have been policed by having mines. I think particularly of the border between Finland and Russia, but those mines have been fenced and their placement is known. As I said, a total ban is unrealistic at the present time. Of course, the practical approach is to get the broadest possible international agreement, with effective measures that will reduce the dangers to civilians. That includes measures to restrict those long-lived dumb mines which are the most dangerous to civilians and which are still being planted, as the noble Lord, Lord Judd, said in his supplementary question.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, is the Minister aware that a great deal of what she has said will bring much comfort and will be widely approved by those who take a stand against such awful weapons? However, is she aware that her continued reference to self-destruct mines weakens the case of the Government against achieving an outright ban? Does she not agree that if she says that self-destruct mines are okay and that non-self-destruct mines are not, that opens the door to a continuing trade in such mines throughout the world because non-self-destruct mines are cheaper and there is therefore every encouragement for governments who wish to use such weapons to continue to buy those mines? Will the Minister reconsider the matter and move forward towards achieving a total ban on all anti-personnel land-mines?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I know that a total ban is attractive, but if we hold out indefinitely for a total ban on all land-mines we will not be taking the preventive action that we could take in the shorter term. We have reviewed all the difficulties of getting international agreement. I know that it would be marvellous for Britain (or any other country) to take unilateral, virtuous and responsible decisions—it might make Members of the Opposition as well as the Government feel better—but it would have little practical effect. Our fundamental priorities are totally unchanged. We want a much strengthened Protocol II with tight technical and other restrictions which will reduce the dangers to civilians from the indiscriminate use of land-mines while still permitting the legitimate use in defence terms of self-destruct mines under tightly controlled circumstances.

Lord Richard: My Lords, is Britain still exporting such weapons?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, the noble Lord must have been occupied with another subject when I said that we have not exported such weapons for more than 10 years.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, is the Minister aware that I have been listening with absolute awe and admiration to the way in which she is determined to

17 Oct 1995 : Column 671

have land-mines banned in all countries? Is it her intention to bring the same determination to bear on the French Government to stop their nuclear testing?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, that has absolutely nothing to do with land-mines. However, I am delighted to say that we were supported by the French in our discussions over an 11-week period.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, I think that the Minister said that £6 million is now being spent on research into the control and destruction of such mines which represent a worldwide problem. Does she think that that is enough?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, it is not a question of how much money is spent; it is a question of the application of that money to the continuing worldwide manufacture of such mines although many countries, like us, no longer export them. It is a question of targeting and of making sure that the technology is appropriately addressed.

Viscount Waverley: My Lords, does the Minister know why the countries she mentioned earlier did not attend the review conference? Was it through lack of funds?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, I am quite certain that if they had wanted to attend, they would have known my phone number and rung up.

Lord Judd: My Lords, taking into account what the Minister said about the lack of urgency at the conference, does she agree that it might be a good idea to reconvene the conference in Cambodia or a similar country so that the participants are forced to face the reality? In view of the Minister's undoubted commitment to this issue, will she reassure the House about the purpose of the top-level conference which is planned at Shrivenham next month at which delivery systems are to be discussed? Can the Minister assure the House that that will in no way either directly or indirectly accentuate the nightmare with which we are concerned this afternoon?

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey: My Lords, on the noble Lord's last question about the Shrivenham conference, I shall make inquiries. I cannot give him any direct answer at the moment. In view of the noble Lord's suggestion that we might ask for such a conference to be hosted by one of the countries still beset by the horrors of mines, it is a thought, but I think that we might see better attendance in a rather more centrally placed country with better airline contacts.

Judicial Standing Orders

3.5 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

On 12th June the House agreed the third report from the Select Committee on House of Lords Offices which, among other things, recommended a significant increase in the fees payable by those bringing appeals to your

17 Oct 1995 : Column 672

Lordships' House. In addition, the House agreed to the imposition of a fee for bringing a petition for leave to appeal to the House.

In the discussions which took place before the recommendations were made, some concern was expressed lest the new level of fees should deter those who might otherwise wish to bring an appeal or a petition for leave to appeal here. The great majority of cases which reach your Lordships' House are brought by organisations which are unlikely to be affected by the increase. It is also true that in the case of individuals who appeal here, the great majority are legally aided. However, it is possible that an individual who does not qualify for legal aid, but whose financial resources are nevertheless not great, might wish to appeal to or to petition your Lordships' House. It is in order to provide for such an eventuality that I ask your Lordships to agree to an addition to the Standing Order, the terms of which are set out on the Order Paper. I believe that the wording sufficiently expresses its purpose and scope. The amendments to the schedule are consequential upon the decision of the House on 12th June. I commend the Motion to the House.

Moved, That the Standing Orders regulating Judicial Business be amended as follows with effect from 1st November 1995:

Standing Order XIII [Fees]

At end insert,
"If the Clerk of the Parliaments is satisfied that a litigant who has been refused legal aid would suffer financial hardship by the payment of fees to this House, he shall report the circumstances to the Appeal Committee. The Appeal Committee shall have power to waive, modify or suspend such fees, either wholly or in part, and shall report thereon to the House."
In the Schedule, at the beginning insert,
"Petition for leave to appeal"; and delete "Joint Petition (from each party thereto)" and "Final Judgment".—(The Lord Chancellor.)

Lord Lester of Herne Hill: My Lords, I very much welcome the amendments and their object which is, as I understand it, to reduce any possibility of unnecessary or unreasonable interference with access to justice in cases litigated in this House. Your Lordships may not be aware of the size of the problem. The increase in fees which your Lordships approved is truly astronomical. Without wearying the House with all the figures, perhaps I may give just three examples. The petition of appeal fee is, as I understand it, to rise from £68 to £500; the notice of appearance fee is to rise from £8 to £100 and the waiver of security for costs fee is to rise from £17 to £100. I hope that my arithmetic is correct because the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor is a very distinguished mathematician as well as jurist.

I give those figures because there has been, as the noble and learned Lord indicated, widespread concern. I should like to clarify whether the language of the discretion which is being conferred on the Appeal Committee is wide enough to cover somebody who does not qualify for legal aid but who has not been refused legal aid. I assume from what has just been said by the noble and learned Lord that although the wording is couched in terms of a refusal, the discretion is wide enough to cover somebody who is ineligible for legal aid but who will suffer real financial hardship because of fees of this level.

17 Oct 1995 : Column 673

The other point on which I should be grateful for clarification is as follows. In view of the massive increases in fees and of the very great costs being imposed on litigants by the existing procedural rules which require, for example, 15 copies of the case to be lodged and for them to be paginated in a particularly expensive and, in my respectful submission, unnecessary way, will the noble and learned Lord and his advisers consider, with the Lords of Appeal in Ordinary and other relevant public officers, whether those costs might be looked at to see whether they could be reduced so that our supreme judicial authority, of which we are all very proud, does not inadvertently impose unnecessary barriers on access to the determination of cases?


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page