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Lord Whitty: My Lords, my noble friend is right that a large proportion of the problem in the non-hazardous sector is building materials. The volume makes the problem significantly worse. I do not have figures for the total number of prosecutions by local authorities. The number of prosecutions by the Environment Agency—some of which are for hazardous waste—is about 350 per year. Fines average between 2,000 and 3,000, while the maximum, as I have said, is 20,000 or two years imprisonment. The actual level of sanction is therefore much less than the law allows.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I revert to the question of 20,000 or two years. That is all very well, and we hear a great deal about the notorious cases. But in fact the most infuriating fly tipping is usually relatively small-scale and unidentifiable. In the majority of cases, the person who tips has a reasonable certainty that he will not be traced. Local authorities now have targets in this area. Will the Minister assure

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me that they are adequately resourced both to deal with the problem and, most importantly, to trace the offenders?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, local authorities allocate their own resources. The noble Lord will not be advocating greater direction than already exists in that regard. Additional powers on tracing and the ability to seize vehicles are covered by both the regulatory change we made earlier and in the proposals under the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords, does the Minister agree that fly-tippers are only litter-bugs on a bigger scale—I agree that it is often a much bigger scale? Does he agree that until his department and local authorities give a leading example by keeping the roads for which they are responsible much cleaner, we will not be likely to change the deplorable culture of the British people in the matter?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I agree that it is the same psychology and, in some cases, the same people engaging in substantial fly tipping as in the disposal of smaller amounts of litter. It is probably a greater problem in this country than in many others. Nevertheless, we should register that in recent years there has been significant improvement in the performance of many local authorities on the prevention and clean-up of litter. It is important to register at least some success on that front, while I agree with the noble Lord that more needs to be achieved.

Zimbabwe: Passports

3.23 p.m.

Lord Dixon-Smith asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider it right that a person born in Zimbabwe who has lived and worked in the United Kingdom and subsequently served in the British Armed Forces in the war in Iraq should be denied a British passport.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, British passports are issued to persons who hold British nationality as defined by the British Nationality Act 1981. A person born in Zimbabwe before 1st January 1983 will be a British citizen if his or her father was born in the United Kingdom. All that the Passport Agency requires is the necessary documentary evidence to support an application. Residence in the United Kingdom or service in the Armed Forces are not relevant to the question of nationality and eligibility for a passport.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that response. It indicates that the Government have looked with some care at the case that was reported recently in the press. It appears that an application for a passport has not been rejected. If

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the Minister gives me that assurance I am most grateful. In view of the fact that it is so easy now for almost anyone to obtain a passport—I understand from the Nationality Group of his department that a successful asylum seeker can achieve a passport within nine months—is he sure that the case was handled with sufficient care when the initial inquiry was made?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the Passport Agency takes particular care with all cases. In the case to which the Question refers, the House will appreciate that it would be inappropriate for me to reveal personal details. If the individual concerned submits a formal application and also provides written consent to the Passport Agency it will be able to undertake a check on Army records, which I would confidently expect to provide the information for the applicant to make a successful passport application.

I have been assured that as long as written consent is given, a speedy resolution to the application can be achieved. Noble Lords can be confident that the Passport Agency wants to be helpful, and I am more than happy to assist in that process.

Lord Burnham: My Lords, the Minister said that service in Her Majesty's Armed Forces does not qualify one for a passport. Why not?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, it is not necessarily a relevant piece of information to the passport application. In this instance we are trying to get the right documentary evidence in place so that a successful application can be made.

Lord Dholakia: My Lords, will the Minister confirm whether the Secretary of State has discretion in certain exceptional cases to authorise the issue of British passports; and, if that is the case will he ensure not only in this case but in similar cases that such discretion is exercised, so that people can contribute positively to the social, economic and political life of this country? More importantly, in the case of Zimbabwe, will he ensure that such citizens are treated with fairness because, once the evil regime of Robert Mugabe has been removed, I am sure that many people will return to Zimbabwe?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, discretion is limited. In passport applications we are talking essentially about conforming with the process and the criteria. That has to be the case, because it has to be an entirely proper process. I am sure the noble Lord will appreciate that.

Lord Bridges: My Lords, have the Government lately considered preparing a Bill defining the circumstances in which a passport may be issued, withheld or cancelled? Is it not strange that that right, which many people regard as fundamental, is still, as far as I know, determined under the Royal

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Prerogative? Or is it the case that the European Court of Human Rights has effectively superseded the Royal Prerogative in that regard?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am not aware of any consideration of a change in policy.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, will the Minister tell me whether there are two separate processes to apply for British nationality and a passport, or whether those two things are linked? Not being a British national I do not know.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the processes are separate.

Communications Bill

3.30 p.m.

House again in Committee on Clause 340.

Lord Puttnam moved Amendment No. 286:


    Page 295, line 9, leave out paragraph (b).

The noble Lord said: In moving Amendment No. 286 I shall speak also to Amendment No. 322C. If our debates this morning could quite reasonably be described as sublime, we are moving swiftly here to the gorblimey. I and others have worked extremely hard to try to find out where on earth this proposal from the Government came from. It certainly was not sought by any advertising agency and does not appear to have been sought by any media owner. It may be the work of some mad teenaged deregulator. I have to ask that deregulator: whose interests did they believe, for one moment, they might serve?

For any agency to take advantage of the offer being made by the Government here, it would have to withdraw from its own industry body. That cannot be sensible. Having discussed this with media owners and advertising agents, no one knows where the proposal came from and I very much hope that the Government will move business along swiftly this afternoon by disavowing it and passing on to the next amendment. I beg to move.

Lord Davies of Oldham: I have been caught unawares by the brevity of the speech of my noble friend in moving the amendment. It was somewhat out of keeping with our proceedings before lunch, but if it sets a pattern for the remainder of the day, I can only say how much I rejoice in it. I hope to respond with similar brevity, but with a degree of effectiveness so that my noble friend may feel able to withdraw his amendment after he has listened to my remarks.

The amendments would restore the provisions of the Broadcasting Act 1990 that prevent advertising agencies from holding broadcasting licences. The straightforward point I wish to make is that we do not believe that it is any longer necessary to prohibit the holding of broadcasting licences by advertising agencies. The ban affects a whole

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category of businesses—businesses that make an important contribution to the economy of the United Kingdom—and it is not our policy to maintain such bans unless they are fully justifiable.

In the past the ban was claimed to be necessary to meet the understandable concerns that for an advertising agency also to be a broadcaster could give rise to abuses and distort the market for broadcast advertising. For example, an advertising agency might be able to offer preferential rates for advertisements broadcast on its "in-house" channel, or the broadcaster might refuse to take advertising otherwise than from the in-house agency.

Those would be serious and undesirable developments, but we do not believe that they would arise because other measures are now available that present an effective way of ensuring that they could do so. In particular, the competition law powers that Ofcom will enjoy and will be able to exercise concurrently with the other competition authorities would prevent economic abuses. We therefore propose to lift the ban because we do not want to restrict participation in the broadcasting market unless it is necessary, and we do not believe it is because any abuses identified will be covered by other legislation, in particular, of course, under the powers in the Competition Act 1998.

So I respond to my noble friend by saying that things have moved on since the Broadcasting Act 1990. We now have in place a range of measures that will help to control the situation. Any advertising agency which applied for a broadcasting licence would be all too well aware of the potential challenges under the other legislation. It is that which is designed to secure the public interest.


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