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The Chairman of Committees: Yes, my Lords, I am aware of the particular problem from which the noble Viscount suffers. That matter does indeed need to be taken into account.

Lord Haskel: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that smoking not only damages people's health but also damages the decorations, the furnishings and the books in your Lordships' House? We have a responsibility to look after those items. Will the noble Lord tell us whether that has also been taken into account?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I can certainly say that those considerations also need to be accounted for.

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National Flagship

2.58 p.m.

Lord Chalfont asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they support the idea of a national flagship which would be of use in Britain's overseas diplomatic and commercial representation.

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): My Lords, the Government again recently reviewed the concept of a national flagship. It was concluded that the benefits would not justify the costs to the taxpayer as there would be insufficient calls on the vessel by both business and government departments.

Lord Chalfont: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Is he aware that the estimated cost to the Government has recently been reduced in a new plan submitted by those who are putting forward this project? Has that been taken into account? On the other hand, can we take it that the matter is now finally closed or is it subject to further consideration?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I am aware that the capital cost, which would of course be provided by private concerns, has been reduced and that the cost to the Government similarly would be reduced. However, it is not felt that that affects the basic consideration that there is no demand for the use of such a ship by any of the parties which might use it. Therefore, the matter can be considered closed.

Lord Roper: My Lords, although I understand the reason for the Answer given by the Minister, I wonder whether he recalls the long tradition of the Royal Navy of showing the flag in a whole variety of ways? Will he consider whether that can be developed and extended to fulfil some of the functions which would have been carried out by a national flagship?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, there are obviously uses to which such a vessel could be put and benefits obtained from it. However, it is not felt that those justify the building of a ship which, overall, would not fulfil any great purpose.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, for example, the £100 million which would be paid for that ship and for its running costs over the first few years and the £5.5 million to the Government every year for its use around the world, would represent a far better and lasting symbol, for peanuts, really, than the Dome has proved to be, which I understand is to go to the breaker's yard within the year?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, it is a common rule that when people stop justifying a project in terms of its use and start trying to justify it in terms that it represents better value than some other

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project, that project being one of which they do not approve, that is usually a very good sign that there should not be funding for such a project.

Lord Elton: My Lords, going back to the question of justifying a project by its use, will the Minister explain in more detail what he means when he says that this ship would not fulfil any great purpose? I presume that, in the consultations which he and his colleagues had with the commercial and industrial interests of the country, he must have said what that purpose was. Will he tell us in what terms the consultation was carried out?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the consultation was undertaken with various departments of government which might see a use for this--for example, British Trade International, the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence. None of those felt that, in terms of value for money, it would achieve any of their purposes.

I remind the House that in relation to trade, for example, a severe lack of flexibility is involved. Many of our target markets are simply not accessible by sea and there are limitations as regards defence and other products on such a vessel which are not shown by exhibition halls. So none of the departments which might be expected to have a requirement for that ship felt that it could be justified.

Lord Elton: My Lords, did the consultation embrace the private sector and, if not, why not?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, I believe that the private sector was consulted through British Trade International. I shall check on that point and let noble Lords know whether that is the case.

Business

3.1 p.m.

Lord Carter: My Lords, it may be for the convenience of the House to know that there may be a short interruption in business at some time during the afternoon or evening. In the event that the other place elects a Speaker today, this House will adjourn and then reassemble to hear the Royal Commission.

I am not yet in a position to give an estimate of when that may happen since the precise timings will depend upon the unfolding of events in another place. If possible, the Royal Commission will take place in the dinner hour. If, however, that does not turn out to be possible, the House will adjourn and then reassemble specifically for the purpose of hearing the Royal Commission read. Once the Royal Commission has been read, the House will resume its main business of the day, which is the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill.

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Lord Elton: My Lords, what will happen if the decision is not reached until the business of this House has been completed?

Lord Carter: My Lords, we shall have the Royal Commission tomorrow.

Police (Northern Ireland) Bill

3.2 p.m.

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.--(Lord Falconer of Thoroton.)

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, before that Motion is agreed to, I should just like to make a few points in relation to the Bill. It is more than three months since the Police (Northern Ireland) Bill received its Second Reading and it is considerably longer since it started its course through Parliament.

This is an extremely serious Bill and many things have changed. It has caused considerable concern within the police force in Northern Ireland but, during the whole of that period, the force has served its community with its usual professionalism and impartiality.

Also, many noble Lords will know that the government amendments to the Bill were tabled exceptionally late, the last ones coming on Thursday evening and being printed on Friday. I suspect that many noble Lords did not see those amendments on the Marshalled List until this morning. That has made it particularly difficult to respond as carefully and professionally as we might have done in different circumstances.

However, I understand and accept from the Government that the reason for that is that the amendments were being negotiated by the Secretary of State and his team right up until the last minute, with the parliamentary parties and others concerned in Northern Ireland.

However, we are today legislating for the policing of an integral part of the United Kingdom. However, it is the peace process which makes this legislation so delicate and difficult. There is a need for the balance of discussion to be so carefully weighed.

I submit, though, that the Government are now running to the end of the road on this Bill. I suggest that they have until Report stage to make some extremely key decisions. I hope that we shall have some very good debates in Committee which will allow Her Majesty's Government to make the right decisions in the interests of all the people of Northern Ireland.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for the understanding that he has shown in relation to the amendments coming from the government side. The Second Reading of the Bill took

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place on 27th July and the vast bulk of the time since then has obviously been taken up by the Summer Recess.

Today, we are focusing on individual amendments to the Bill. I wish to spend a few moments, in response to the noble Lord's remarks, setting our discussions in a wider context.

This legislation flows directly from the recommendations of the Independent Commission on Policing in Northern Ireland--the Patten report. That commission took its terms of reference directly from the Good Friday agreement. Following publication of the Patten report, the Government have carried out a wide range of consultations. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland believes, as I do, that this is a balanced Bill. The Government have listened very carefully and have demonstrated that we are prepared to make changes where it is right to do so. Every proposal has been assessed against the key test: will it contribute to making the police a more effective representative service, a service which commands the widespread support and confidence of the people of Northern Ireland?

Patten himself recognised that his report would not be mechanistically implemented and that some fine-tuning would inevitably be required in translating some of his recommendations into legislation. This legislation is a key element in taking forward the Good Friday agreement. The goal--and it should be a shared goal for all the differences of opinion in relation to individual facets of the Bill--is to achieve a new beginning for policing in Northern Ireland.

The Bill offers a unique opportunity for policing in Northern Ireland to move forward. All noble Lords share that aspiration and I welcome their support in helping the Government to deliver it.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[THE PRINCIPAL DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [Name of the police in Northern Ireland]:


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