Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Burnham: My Lords, I think the noble Lord for giving way. I understand the necessity to charter transport. Will it be British flagged ships?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, we hope that it would be. However, if British flagged ships were not available at short notice, I hope that we may make arrangements with our allies for other ships to meet our needs. I cannot give the noble Lord a commitment on that point.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, said that it was the advance guard of possibly as many as 8,000 troops. He is exactly right. We are looking at the possibility, which we hope will not come about, of having to send as many as 8,000 troops.

The noble Lord asked me what the force was going to do. I think that I have answered that question. It will be there to enforce a peace agreement. He wanted to know the long term plan? These things are wrapped in the future. It is pointless for me to speculate. But if we go in, we shall not expect to come out until it is clear that peace has been established, that the parties engaged there accept it, and that it is being enforced in good faith. That is all I can say usefully at this stage.

7.42 p.m.

The Earl of Carlisle: My Lords, I thank the Minister for the Statement, which I fully support. First, will the noble Lord assure the House that if the force is deployed the force commander will be given a clear military aim? Secondly, can he tell us more about the chain of command? To whom will the brigade commander report? Thirdly, he has not mentioned any reconnaissance units within the force. Will the force be supported by reconnaissance helicopters?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, helicopters will be available. It is best that I do not speculate at this stage on whether they will be deployed. The chain of command will flow to the Commander of the Allied Rapid Reaction Corps.

Baroness Ludford: My Lords, like my noble friend Lord Wallace of Saltaire, I fully support the Statement. It is evident that we have learned our lesson from Bosnia. While aware that it is prudent military planning and does not pre-judge a decision on deploying a force, nonetheless were such a decision to be taken--I believe

11 Feb 1999 : Column 389

that it would be honourable and courageous--it would need to be explained to the British public. As my noble friend said, to welcome such deployment sends wrong signals, but it would indicate that it was necessary for our security and that of Europe. It is not a foreign venture in a far-away place of which we know little. If we took the decision to deploy such a force, have the Government any plans for conveying to the British public that such a decision is relevant to our security so that there is no misunderstanding of the matter?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Baroness for her contribution. First, I should emphasise that any future decision will not be taken by Her Majesty's Government alone. It will be taken in conjunction with governments of our allies in NATO. I wish to make that absolutely clear. Secondly, I think today's Statement is evidence that we want to take the British people into our confidence as early as possible, making clear that the Government are prepared to live up to their international responsibilities, as well as sending the same message to the people of Bosnia and Serbia.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement. We are pleased that the Government are not acting on their own but are working in conjunction with allies. We are all pleased that what might be described as the heavy element--I refer to tanks, artillery and armoured personnel carriers--will be deployed from British military forces. But we are also cognisant of the fact that in modern military affairs helicopters play a major part. Can my noble friend assure the House that helicopters will be available? If they are not available through the British contingent, will they be available from our allied contingents in the possible theatre of activity in Kosovo?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I am obliged to my noble friend for his support for what we are doing and for his recognition of the need for us to make preparations to move our heavy equipment as soon as possible. I hope that I have made clear that helicopters are to be available. Whether or not they will be deployed is a matter for the future.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, from experience with Bosnia, I would expect the staff to be planning for a three-year deployment. What will be the effect of that on overstretch in the Army? My noble friend Lord Burnham referred to the rules of engagement. Can the Minister confirm that the rules of engagement will be broadly the same as for Op Palatine?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, the noble Earl, as usual, is right. This deployment will add to overstretch in the Army, in particular if we end up deploying of the order of 8,000 men. Some will be RAF personnel. However, it will add greatly to overstretch within the Army.

If the noble Lord will forgive me, I prefer not to say more about the rules of engagement at this stage.

11 Feb 1999 : Column 390

Lord Hoyle: My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now adjourn during pleasure until 8.25 p.m.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

[The Sitting was suspended from 7.48 to 8.25 p.m.]

Access to Justice Bill [H.L.]

Consideration of amendments on Report resumed on Clause 6.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton moved Amendment No. 39:

Page 4, line 21, leave out ("Directions given by the Lord Chancellor under section 4 may") and insert ("The Lord Chancellor may by direction").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Lord Kingsland moved Amendment No. 40:

Page 4, line 26, at end insert--
("(6) The Lord Chancellor shall by order make provision about the payments which may be made by the Commission in respect of advocacy provided by non-contracted private practitioners in cases funded as part of the Community Legal Service; and such provision shall require that the remuneration for such advocacy in each case be quantified and paid separately from other funded services.
(7) For the purposes of subsection (6), representation is provided by a non-contracted private practitioner if it is provided, otherwise than pursuant to a contract entered into by the Commission, by a person or body which is neither--
(a) a person or body in receipt of grants or loans made by the Commission as part of the Community Legal Service, nor
(b) the Commission itself or a body established or maintained by the Commission.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor will recall the substance of the amendment being debated on more than one occasion during the course of the Committee stage. Indeed, the notion of ring-fencing loomed large in the answer he gave before the dinner break. The amendment seeks to ring fence advocacy fees, but I hasten to add that it is not a barrister's amendment, as the noble and learned Lord suggested in Committee. It would protect the funding and payment for the services of a specialist solicitor-advocate as much as those of a barrister.

Funding by block contract arrangements can induce financial pressures not to use specialist advocates. Where the services of a specialist advocate are necessary, it is essential that clients are not under pressure to decline them. Clients must not be put under pressure and not be put in a position of having to accept unsatisfactory offers from the other side because the funds for advocacy services at a trial are not available or are not sufficiently separated from general funding to encourage or enable this to happen.

As I recall, in answer to the point when raised in Committee, the noble and learned Lord suggested that it was open to barristers to engage in direct block funding arrangements with the legal services commission. I entirely accept that, but, with respect, it is not the point of the amendment. The point of the amendment is to deal with the case which has

11 Feb 1999 : Column 391

reached the stage where a solicitor ought to consider whether it is appropriate to advise the client to engage in court proceedings and therefore perhaps to engage a specialist solicitor-advocate or a barrister.

In my submission, unless there is a separate budget for the payment of the specialist solicitor-advocate or for the barrister, there will be a strong temptation for the block contractor either not to advise his client to engage in court proceedings at all or at least to have a service which is less thorough than the one he ought to receive. I beg to move.

8.30 p.m.

Lord Ackner: My Lords, it has been frequently stated during the course of debates on the Bill that the Government recognise that a strong and independent Bar is absolutely essential in the interests of democracy, a well-run legal system and the public. You cannot, on the one hand, emphasise the need for such a branch of a profession if, on the other, you are going to starve its members of the wherewithal not only to flourish but to enter the profession in the first place. So these rather gratuitous smears that one hears from time to time--that "This is a method of protecting the narrow interests of the profession"--are quite wrong. This is a vibrant profession wanting to continue in existence, but very conscious of the fact that the Bill when enacted will cause it a great deal of problems. I can see nothing in the Bill which will enhance its position. It will increase the struggles which have to be made certainly by the very junior Bar. I support the amendment.

8.30 p.m.

Lord Renton: My Lords, the amendment is very necessary in order to ensure that in future the work of the commission can be done satisfactorily. Alas, one may have had to contemplate a situation in which not enough private practitioners make themselves available. Therefore, it may be necessary to go beyond those who have contracted. This amendment would give that necessary power to do so and would ensure that there was enough professional support for legal aid to be carried out as required. I hope that the Government will consider the amendment sympathetically.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page