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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, in response to the first question raised by my noble friend, yes indeed, the Government are appreciative of the efforts already made by industry to cut damaging carbon emissions. However, as I stated in response to a similar Question on Monday, the demands of the Kyoto agreements are very strict. We have to produce a 20 per cent cut in carbon emissions by 2010. In response to the second question, that is a target accepted by all industrialised countries. The competitive position of energy-intensive industries in all countries of the world will be affected by their commitment to the Kyoto agreements.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, in response to the first question raised by the noble Lord, yes, we are aware of different levels of emissions from energy-intensive industries. Of course, we are prepared to discuss those matters with the industries concerned. We are considering, in particular, a low rate or no rate for renewable energy sources. I have forgotten the second question raised by the noble Lord!
Lord Ezra: My Lords, can the Minister indicate whether at the end of the consultative process on the document dealing with the climate change levy, the Government will give serious consideration to making more of the proceeds of the levy available for energy-saving purposes? Does he recall that at present, out of the £1.7 billion raised by the levy, only £50 million will be made available for that purpose, apart from whatever arrangement is made with the intensive energy users?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the levy is intended to be fiscally neutral; in other words, all the proceeds from the levy will be returned to business in the form of reductions on national insurance contributions. Our activities in energy conservation, which are not insignificant, are in addition to that return.
Lord Paul: My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of an engineering company. The manufacturing industry has become very efficient. However, at present the main problem it faces is the high rate of the pound. That prohibits more investment which is needed for it to be competitive. Can the Minister confirm that there will be no extra levy, which would add to its costs, and that instead they will allow the industry to spend money on increasing efficiency?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, we have to achieve the targets to which we agreed at Kyoto, as do all other countries. The competitive position which they have vis-a-vis our industry is the same as that of other countries because of the commitments they made at Kyoto.
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, the noble Lord is well known as a champion of the rights of the disabled, in particular for the Civil Rights (Disabled Persons) Bill which he introduced in another place in 1991. The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 met many, but not all, of his concerns. It did not establish a disability rights commission. This Government have done just that by their Disability Rights Commission Bill which is before another place today. Royal Assent is anticipated by the end of July and the commission is expected to be up and running by April 2000.
More particularly, a freephone disability helpline has been set up by the Court Service. It has been operational since March this year. In April 1998 the Court Service introduced provisions to arrange and pay for interpreters for deaf court users in civil cases. A pilot scheme is also running in the magistrates' courts for the appointment of blind and partially-sighted lay magistrates. The Court Service has also carried out a programme of disability access audits in order to plan and prioritise the changes required to court buildings. This involves no less than 341 separate audits.
Lord Morris of Manchester: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble and learned friend for his reply, and both to him and the Government as a whole for the urgency with which they are enacting the Disability Rights Commission Bill--an historic advance for
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, those are two substantial supplementary questions. Court Service staff visited every building on the courts estate--341--to identify where any fails to meet the required standards. The staff involved received special training in the facilities required to meet the needs of all categories of disabled court users. A report has been prepared on each building, identifying how a disabled person would gain access to the building and making recommendations about the alterations or additional facilities required. Ninety-eight per cent of the audits have been completed. Out of a total of 335, only six are outstanding. Those should be completed in the next two weeks.
As to the second supplementary, I have heard concerns expressed that reforms to legal aid will be detrimental to the disabled. I deprecate that scaremongering which must be very troubling for the disabled. In fact, they have nothing whatever to fear. There is no evidence that legal aid lawyers fail to act for the disabled in cases where they would act for others, and no reason whatever why they should fail to do so. It will be exactly the same under conditional fee agreements.
Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, given the Government's intention to provide access to justice for all, and given the need to create a level playing field to ensure equality of access to justice for all, how satisfied is the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor with the present provision, for example, in relation to deaf people who attend court or who find themselves involved at any stage in the legal process? There is a real dearth of interpreters for the deaf in the United Kingdom?
The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, this is the first question that the noble Baroness has asked from the Front Bench, to which I welcome her as a fellow lawyer. She will come to learn that your Lordships' House much appreciates lawyers. As I have already said, in April last year the Court Service introduced provisions to arrange and pay for interpreters for deaf court users in civil cases. Since the scheme was introduced, interpreters have been booked for 124 hearings. As the noble Baroness will also know, there are issues about how the deaf might act as jurors in criminal trials. There is no bar on their doing so. The trial judge has to be satisfied that the individual deaf juror would be capable of discharging his duties. A problem is that under the present rules an interpreter for the deaf may not sit in the jury room. The Government are undertaking research into that issue. A consultation paper is likely to be issued next year.
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