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Lord Eatwell: My Lords, just to make myself clear, I cannot guarantee to support the measures in the building societies Bill that the noble Lord brings forward. But I certainly support this order, which is entirely sensible.

Lord Henley: Obviously, my Lords, I was not expecting total and utter support from the noble Lord on every aspect of the Bill, but I think that the general thrust of the Bill is something to which the noble Lord would give a degree of support.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Deregulation (Still-Birth and Death Registration) Order 1996

11.5 p.m.

Lord Henley rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 20th May be approved [25th Report from the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I beg to move that these regulations be approved. The draft order under the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 is concerned with removing the burden imposed on the recently bereaved from having to travel to give information for the registration of deaths and still-births.

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This particular order has now, with the exception of these particular proceedings, completed all the appropriate stages in both Houses. Its purpose is to amend the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953, which I understand follows from legislation going back as far as the 1830s. That particular Act was designed to provide for the registration of deaths and still-births by means of a declaration of the particulars to be registered. Currently, relatives and others are obliged to attend before the registrar of births and deaths where--I stress the word "where" in terms of place--the death occurred to give information for the registration of a death or a still-birth. The proposed change would allow them to choose to travel to the district where the event occurred--as they must at present--or to visit their local or other registrar.

We are satisfied that the measure will not reduce the necessary protection. Deaths and still-births will continue to be registered in the district where they occurred so that they remain traceable for many years to come. I believe that this is a minor and sensible piece of deregulation and will, as I said earlier, significantly reduce the burden on some of those recently bereaved. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 20th May be approved [25th Report from the Delegated Powers Scrutiny Committee.]--(Lord Henley).

Lord Eatwell: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for introducing this enormously sensible measure. Indeed, it is so sensible and worth while that the one major criticism that one could make of the Government is to ask why they have not brought it forward earlier. The problem is, of course, that from these Benches I could ask why the Labour Government did not bring it forward earlier and why successive Conservative Governments did not bring it forward earlier either.

I should like to refer to two points which the Deregulation Committee asked about this measure. The first concerns the new form--the medical certificate of the cause of death--which doctors will now be required to fill in, which apparently will give information more appropriate for the new system of registration which no longer requires relatives to travel to the place of death, which is entirely sensible. The Government told the Deregulation Committee that the revised guidance notes for doctors were being prepared. I wonder whether the noble Lord could assure us that those revised notes are now available and will be available to doctors when this order comes into force.

Secondly, the Deregulation Committee asked that information about the cause of death could now be copied from the medical certificate--the new form of certificate which doctors are being asked to produce--and this will require amendments to secondary legislation. Could the noble Lord tell us whether those amendments will come before this House and, if so, when?

Lord Henley: On the first point raised by the noble Lord, relating to the number of different governments that have been before us, not just since 1953 but

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sometime in the 1830s, it is not Conservative Governments nor Labour Governments, nor even Liberal Governments, but possibly goes back to Whig governments and others--all of them have failed to address this matter and we all stand to blame.

The noble Lord also asked when guidance would be available on the concerns raised by the Deregulation Committee in another place. I can give the noble Lord an assurance that that guidance will be available in due course and certainly at the appropriate moment.

He also asked whether amendments to secondary legislation would have to come before this House in due course. My understanding at the moment is that, if the amendments are needed, those amendments would not require the affirmative resolution procedure and would be matters for negative resolution. But I shall take advice on that particular point and, if I am wrong, write to the noble Lord. I hope that, having said that, I have addressed all the points which the noble Lord raised. If I have failed to do so, as I say, I will write to the noble Lord.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Explosives (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1996

11.10 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Baroness Denton of Wakefield) rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 12th June be approved.

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move that the Explosives (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 1996, a draft of which was laid before the House on 12th June 1996, be approved.

The principal purpose of this short order is to amend the regulation-making power in Section 3(1) of the Explosives Act (Northern Ireland) 1970, so as to provide greater flexibility in the making of fireworks regulations. This change would be effected by Article 3.

The result will provide the Secretary of State with the same powers to make fireworks regulations as he currently has to make explosives regulations in general. At present, Section 3 of the Act restricts the Secretary of State's regulation-making power to matters covering the sale and use of fireworks. The reform proposals published in January this year--which have been generally well received--require a more flexible power. Hence the need to amend the 1970 Act.

The only other significant change is effected by Article 4. This amends the Explosives Act 1875 to make it an offence to sell fireworks to any child apparently under the age of 16 years, and brings the law in Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the United Kingdom. I beg to move.

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Moved, That the order laid before the House on 12th June 1996 be approved.--(Baroness Denton of Wakefield.)

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, this is a sensible order and I therefore support it, particularly in so far as it gives extra protection to children.

Lord Holme of Cheltenham: My Lords, this is a late hour, a gloomy hour, and particularly well suited to discussing such matters as deaths registration and explosives, For me, it had a brief shaft of light a few moments ago when the noble Lord, Lord Henley, referred to past Liberal and Whig governments.

I feel that the order is probably long overdue; it is certainly accepted on these Benches. But I should like to take this opportunity to say one other thing briefly. I am well aware that the noble Baroness, with her heavy departmental responsibilities, will be aware of what I am about to say. It is this. I am using the rubric of explosives just to say something about the current situation.

I should like to congratulate the Irish Government and the Garda on their discovery of that large cache of explosives recently, and I should like to say how important it is. I trust that the Government agree--particularly at this juncture when the Provisional IRA have turned their backs so conclusively on the course of peace--how vital it is that the two governments continue to work closely together on the issue of security and indeed on the general thrust of the peace process, which must be continued with all possible vigour. I hope the noble Baroness does not mind my intruding those thoughts into the discussion of this amendment order, which I am glad to support.

Baroness Denton of Wakefield: My Lords, I thank both noble Lords for their support and I would confirm to the noble Lord, Lord Holme, that it continues to be inexplicable that anyone should think that violence has any part in the building of peace in Northern Ireland. We stand shoulder to shoulder with the Irish Government and all others who reject violence utterly and totally. This order will bring a little more sensibility into this issue. I commend it to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Defamation Bill [H.L.]

11.14 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I beg to move that the Commons amendments be now considered.

Moved, That the Commons amendments be now considered.--(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

COMMONS AMENDMENTS
[The page and line refer to Bill (127) as first printed by the Commons.]
COMMONS AMENDMENT

1

Clause 1, page 2, line 5, at end insert 'or providing'.

2 Jul 1996 : Column 1435

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1. I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 2 and 3.

I begin by putting on record my deep gratitude for the contribution made to the Bill by Lord Justice Neill. I am sure that your Lordships will agree with me that this is a very worthwhile Bill and for that Lord Justice Neill should take a great share of the credit not only for chairing the committee which gave rise to many of the proposals, but also for the help he has generously given throughout the progress of the Bill to my officials and myself in considering how we should react to the various propositions put to us.

Amendments Nos. 1 to 3 are small technical amendments to subsection (3)(c). Subsection (3) sets out categories of defendants who will not be regarded as authors, editors and publishers for the purposes of this clause so that the new statutory defence may be available to them provided, of course, they can satisfy the other conditions set out earlier in the clause. It reflects the existence of new technologies not contemplated when the common law defence of innocent dissemination was developed. The amendments together spell out that those who are only providing systems or services making material available in electronic form are within the subsection.

Moved, That the House do agree with the Commons in their Amendment No. 1.--(The Lord Chancellor.)


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