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Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the UK has made many firm commitments since 1991 to the specific inclusion of women in appointments for post-conflict recovery. We believe that women should be appointed to take part in this process. From the Minister's reference to the police, I imagine that it is a largely masculine force. It is considered desirable that 30 per cent of those involved in resolving conflict and restoring peace afterwards should be women. What is being done to help women to have influence directly in Iraq.

Lord Bach: My Lords, led by the coalition, a large amount is being done in Iraq. The UK is committed to including women in all phases and at all levels in the reconstruction. Indeed, the Prime Minister's special representative and his team, working closely with the Americans, have been discussing the issue of engaging Iraqi women in the reconstruction process. A consultative meeting took place between the coalition provisional authority and 40 Iraqi women on 29th May to discuss the very point the noble Baroness makes about the inclusion of women in Iraq's reconstruction. A steering group has been formed to take forward this very important process. The proposal to hold a women's conference and the issue of women's participation in the political process, which is of crucial importance to the future of Iraq, are gathering strength.

Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that children are particularly at risk from unexploded cluster bombs? What steps are being taken to protect children in such circumstances and to ensure that they are properly cared for and receive appropriate treatment if they are injured?

Lord Bach: My Lords, every effort is being made by the coalition to ensure that the kind of accident/tragedy that my noble friend mentions does not occur. We are providing information to clearance organisations on munitions used, and locations, so

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that clearance of all types of unexploded ordnance that might pose a risk to civilians can be achieved quickly and effectively. We very much hope that we are on top of the situation.

Baroness Northover: My Lords, has the Minister seen the report from the United Nations? It is very concerned that religious extremists are intimidating women and girls into wearing the veil, even if they are Christian. Obviously this is a symbolic sign of oppression rather than the kind of disastrous events we have just been talking about. But one Iraqi UN staff member, we hear, recently received a handwritten letter at home saying she would be killed unless she started covering her hair. Are the UK Government encountering similar problems in southern Iraq and how are they dealing with that human rights situation?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness. No, so far as we know—and we will of course investigate and correct ourselves if we are wrong—there is not that particular problem in southern Iraq. The issue is extremely important. In re-establishing the Iraqi police and judicial system, an amendment to the criminal code effected recently means that it is illegal for a man physically to chastise his wife, and courts can enforce maintenance payments to wives. Those may be seen as small matters, but in my view, if that is to be the basis of a criminal code beginning at this stage, it is a good sign for the future. We must remember that even though a wicked tyranny operated in Iraq, women were not treated as badly there compared with what has occurred in the past in some other countries.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, does the Minister recall his previous Answer to a Question I asked about weapons of mass destruction falling into the hands of looters? Is he aware of any cases of ordinary citizens suffering from radiation sickness?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I recall the noble Lord's Question, but I do not have an answer for him today. I have no brief to suggest that radiation sickness is being caused. I shall of course look into the matter and write to the noble Lord if I am wrong.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, will the Minister tell the House whether any children have so far been killed or injured by exploding cluster bombs, and how many such bombs were dropped by the allied forces?

Lord Bach: My Lords, I cannot give the noble Lord the figures he seeks. He will know that cluster bombs are lawful weapons that provide a unique capability against certain legitimate military targets and that it was necessary to use them during the war. Some 2,000 artillery-delivered L20 bomblet munitions, called extended range bomblet shells, were used, mainly on targets around Basra. These have secondary fuses that ensure far fewer unexploded bomblets are left behind than with older-generation bombs.

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Driving without Insurance

2.53 p.m.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why motorists driving without insurance no longer face the risk of disqualification for a first offence.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, under Section 143 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, a person must be insured against third-party risks if using a motor vehicle on a road or other public place. Not to do so is an offence punishable either summarily with a fine of up to 5,000, six to eight penalty points and discretionary disqualification, or by a fixed penalty of 200 and six penalty points. Magistrates may disqualify for a first offence if the severity of the offence merits it.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, I am glad to hear that reply. It deserves wider circulation, because on 9th June, the home affairs editor of the Daily Telegraph said:


    "Thousands of motorists caught without insurance will escape a driving ban for a first offence under new rules.


    "Offenders will face an automatic 200 fine and six penalty points instead of a court appearance at which they could be disqualified".

A spokesman for the Magistrates' Association said:


    "Youngsters paying well over 1,000 now know that if they do not bother with insurance they face only a 200 fine".

Will the Minister confirm, following his first sentence, that those two reports are inaccurate? If they are, will he see that the world gets to know that?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I certainly would be a busy Minister if I sought to correct every inaccuracy in the national press. Even the Daily Telegraph can get things wrong on occasion.

The headline of the article that the noble Lord mentions reads:


    "Let-off for car insurance dodgers"

when both he and the House will recognise that the intention is to make sure that car insurance dodgers who get off at present will be successfully prosecuted. Through the system of automatic number-plate recognition, the police are in a position to take note of a car which does not have valid insurance and to act accordingly. Therefore, the issue is not the severity of the punishment but the certainty of detection.

Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes: My Lords, could the Minister say how severity is determined? Either they have insurance or they do not—there is nothing but black and white in that particular case. Does he agree that it is time that people purchasing insurance for their cars should at the same time obtain a disc that they can display in their cars—the same as the road tax disc? It would make enforcement very much easier, as police could look at parked cars and see which cars

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were insured and which were not. That is currently being done in most European countries which, for once, are doing something better than us.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I notice the noble Baroness's constructive suggestion. As I have indicated, we take this offence seriously. The number of prosecutions has been fairly constant over the past four years. The number is quite high, at 182,000 cases a year. So this is an offence that we need to tackle with rigour. Our chosen method with regard to first-time offenders, is to guarantee that everyone becomes aware of the fact that if they drive a motor car on the public road, detection equipment can identify the number of the car, whether that car has been insured and, if not, suitable action will inevitably be taken.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, is the Minister aware of the increasing concern expressed about reliance on speed cameras for detection of offences, resulting in motorway patrol cars and others being reduced so that dangerous driving, tailgating and other offences are being allowed to go scot-free?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am not sure that the noble Lord is right in his proposition that this evidence is unreliable. I think what has happened—and I believe most noble Lords would bear testimony to this—is that the introduction of speed cameras has significantly affected road behaviour in this country. We cannot guarantee that everyone stays within the limits all the time, but it is certainly clear that the levels by which those who break the law and exceed the speed limits have been moderating significantly in recent years, a reflection of the fact that the system of cameras works.

Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, can my noble friend confirm that it is still the case that before you can receive or obtain a road fund tax disc, you have to provide a certificate of insurance? If people do not have a road fund tax disc on their car, the chances are that they have no insurance either, which is one means of identifying them.


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