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Lord Sewel: My Lords, I do not make any assumption about the accommodation requirements of the Scottish Office and of those who will represent Scottish interests after devolution. That is a matter for the Scottish executive.

The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, is it not well known that during her time as Prime Minister the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, cast covetous eyes on Dover

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House in foreseeing a longer tenure in office than was the case? Why is the Minister so coy in his reference to the Prime Minister and his wife casting equally covetous glances at Dover House? It seems to me an admirable place in which to put a Prime Minister and possibly, in due course, a president.

Lord Sewel: My Lords, as regards the reference to the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, that may have been the scourge of Dover House. I am not aware of the present Prime Minister casting any covetous eyes on Dover House. As I said, Dover House is the London base for the Scottish Office. That will remain the position certainly until devolution. It is appropriate that the accommodation requirements of the then Secretary of State and the Scottish executive are then reviewed.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, is the Minister aware that I have no knowledge that the noble Baroness, Lady Thatcher, cast covetous eyes on Dover House? Does the noble Lord recall George Robertson's phrase with regard to devolution; namely, that it would kill the nationalists stone dead? But the fact is they are alive and kicking. Will he therefore ensure that Dover House continues to be used by the Scottish Office, just in case at some time in the future Mr. Robertson has to eat his words in a big way and it is required by Scotland as the home of the Scottish ambassador to the Court of St. James?

Lord Sewel: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish, never fails to entertain us but that is one of his wilder flights of fancy.

Lord Selkirk of Douglas: My Lords, does the Minister accept that the strong defence of the Union by the Secretary of State for Scotland made yesterday will be enhanced if Dover House is retained to represent Scotland's interests within the United Kingdom?

Lord Sewel: My Lords, much as I value and appreciate the opportunity of working in Dover House, I think that the robust defence of the Union does not depend upon a building.

Railway Land: Redevelopment

3.5 p.m.

Lord Cadman asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are satisfied that, following the moratorium on the sale of former railway land recently announced, adequate consultation is taking place between Rail Properties Ltd and local authorities and others concerning the redevelopment of suitable sites for future railway use.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the Government announced in July in the White Paper on the future of transport that the British Railways Board was suspending land sales while it conducted an audit of the remaining sites. As part of this review, the British Railways Board has consulted a wide range of transport operators, local

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authorities and other organisations on the criteria to be applied for establishing sites which have a realistic prospect of use for transport purposes in the foreseeable future.

Lord Cadman: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Is he aware that several potential sites belonging to British Rail which have been earmarked for possible future railway use are still being actively promoted by Rail Properties Ltd for other non-railway schemes? Bearing in mind that the railway industry and interested local authorities might have a better idea of their future needs than those charged with site disposal, does the Minister agree that Rail Properties should be encouraged to co-operate more fully with interested parties with a view to returning suitable sites to rail use?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, part of the review that I have just mentioned requires the British Railways Board to identify those sites which might be of use for railway or other transport purposes. It would appear that probably the bulk of the sites would not fall within that category, but as regards those that do, consultation would be required with local authorities and transport operators if there were any proposition to dispose of them. However, the British Railways Board has a responsibility to dispose of that land which is not useful for those purposes.

Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, in order that these sites are put to the best future use for local people, will the Government give consideration to allowing local authorities to have the first option, provided the price is right?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, at present if the British Railways Board sells sites it is supposed to sell them at market value. Local authorities which can see some benefit in acquiring the land are considered as serious purchasers. However, the bulk of the remaining British Railways Board property is of a relatively small size and is unlikely to be a major factor in local authorities' development plans.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that all this information which he has helpfully given to the House this afternoon is contained in a report which has recently been submitted to his department by the British Railways Board? Will he consider publishing that as I believe it contains a list of every property which is still in British Rail's hands and that would enable colleagues in the industry and local authorities to identify for themselves what is available and what they may wish to purchase?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the chairman of the British Railways Board has recently submitted a report to the Deputy Prime Minister which sets out the general approach. It does not contain the full list of British Railways Board properties, although that will become available. Clearly my colleagues will give consideration to the question of whether it should be published at some point. However, we are not at that point yet.

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Viscount Addison: My Lords, does the Minister agree it is important that aggregates are transported to London and other cities by train rather than by road and that it is important to keep the storage facilities for aggregates near railway depots rather than losing that land to building sites, which would result in lorries transporting aggregates? It is important to keep aggregate sources next to railway depots.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I agree with the general point made by the noble Viscount. Indeed, it is very much part of our policy that some of the freight which is currently transported by road should be returned to rail freight. The recent history of the rail freight industry is encouraging in that respect. As regards the sites, noble Lords will recognise that the bulk of the sites referred to are not British Rail Board sites; they are Railtrack sites. Railtrack has certain constraints on the disposal of those sites, if usable for such purposes.


Lord Carter: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m., my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is to be made in another place; namely, the Pre-Budget Statement. Following that, my noble friend Lady Symons of Vernham Dean will, again with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement on the situation in Iraq.

Scotland Bill

3.10 p.m.

Lord Sewel: My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.

Moved, That the Bill be further considered on Report.--(Lord Sewel.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Schedule 5 [Reserved matters]:

The Lord Advocate (Lord Hardie) moved Amendment No. 206X:

Page 67, line 43, at end insert (", or
(c) any office in the Scottish Administration.").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this is a drafting amendment designed to make it clear that the reservation of the Crown in Part I of Schedule 5 does not have the effect of reserving the offices in the Scottish administration. It has always been intended that the Scottish parliament should have the ability to be able to amend the functions of office holders who comprise part of the Scottish administration and confer new functions upon them. This amendment ensures that Part I of the schedule should not have the effect of preventing the parliament from doing that. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

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Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale moved Amendment No. 206Y:

Page 68, line 5, at end insert--
("( ) Sub-paragraph (1) does not affect the reservation by paragraph 1 of the functions of the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service and the Government Communications Headquarters.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, these amendments would reserve legislative competence over the interception of communications while devolving executive competence to the Scottish administration. They also make clear that the scope of the reservation of "interception of communications" does not include intrusive surveillance techniques.

The Bill at present provides for the devolution of the Interception of Communications Act 1985, to the extent that it relates to the prevention or detection of serious crime. This will have two main consequences. First, the Scottish executive will assume the Secretary of State's current power to authorise interception of telephone calls or mail for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime. That squares with the fact that policing and crime prevention are devolved and it would be anomalous if the Scottish police had to go to a UK government Minister for interception warrants against criminals operating in Scotland.

The second consequence is that the Scottish parliament will be able to legislate to amend the Interception of Communications Act, but only where that interception is necessary to prevent or detect serious crime in Scotland. On reflection, we believe that there would be practical problems in legislating separately on that sub-set of interception issues.

The Interception of Communications Act 1985 is in need of updating and work to replace it is under way. That work has underlined the importance of having a coherent interception policy throughout the UK. If different arrangements were to apply in different parts of the country in relation to serious crime interceptions it could undermine the interception policy and police operations in the remainder of the UK, especially by revealing some of the detailed techniques which are used.

The basis of the existing policy is sound. Devolution must ensure that it is the Scottish First Minister, rather than a Minister of the UK Government, who has responsibility for authorising interception for serious criminals in Scotland and is answerable to the Scottish parliament for that work. But an approach which might fragment the UK-wide legislation on this sensitive subject would be very difficult to operate in practice without prejudicing police operations and the fight against serious crime.

The amendments therefore reserve interception legislation. But we shall use the power in Clause 59 of the Bill to transfer to Scottish Ministers the important executive responsibility for authorising interception in serious criminal cases in Scotland. They alone will have the power to give such authority in such cases, and they will be answerable to the Scottish parliament.

In this way the Scottish parliament will retain a proper measure of control over interception policy in Scotland. There is considerable scope for Scottish

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Ministers to establish different policies on interception related to serious crime without devolving legislative powers. I beg to move.

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