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Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, is the Minister aware that there will be a great deal of support for the thrust of the concern expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Hurd? Does she agree that this new phenomenon of suicidal international terrorism is likely to be a long haul? Does she also agree that, given our considerable experience over the decades of terrorism in Ulster, we are in a position to give a lead in seeing these matters in proportion and not giving the terrorists the satisfaction of disrupting disproportionately our foreign travel, whether it is for business purposes or tourism?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I have a great deal of sympathy with that point but I also put to your Lordships the very important point that the first responsibility of any government has to be the security of their citizens. This is an enormously difficult issue. When I was in Turkey, very shortly after the appalling bomb in Istanbul, the point that noble Lords have made was put to me by the Turks themselves. They said that the advice might do the terrorists' job for them. But I also had to make it clear that it is the Government's responsibility not just to lay out the facts but to decide about the advice. One of the points in the terms of reference of the current review is precisely this balance: what should be the balance in our travel advice between information, warning and advice? That is the nub of the issue, and we would very much welcome the views of your Lordships.
Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, personally, I find the current level of Foreign and Commonwealth Office travel advice extremely good, particularly its website, which I strongly recommend to your Lordships. However, does the noble Baroness recall that after the Bali atrocity more than a year ago, the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee produced its own report on questions of travel advice and strongly recommended that there should be a more sensitively graded system of warnings, steering between alarmism at the one extreme and complacency at the other? Has that idea been adopted and is it enfolded in the current level of advice?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, travel advice is a dynamic processit is changing all the time and the approach to it is changing all the time. This is a major review to look again at whether we need to focus in a different way. The short answer to the noble Lord's point is yes. The travel advice regarding Turkey at the time of the terrorist outrage on our Consulate-General in Istanbul was already more nuanced than, for example, the travel advice of the United States. Its advice was aimed at the whole of Turkey; ours very specifically pointed out that the dangers were very much greater in big cities and towns. We have tried to pick up the very helpful points that came out of the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee report and to be more sensitive in the way that we nuance it.
Lord Dubs: My Lords, is there not a difficulty in not giving specific advice that tourists should not visit particular places because of the problem of travel insurance? Will my noble friend confirm that travel companies will allow people to change the date or get a refund if there is clear advice that people should not travel, but in the absence of that advice, there might be insurance problems?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: Yes, my Lords, that is true, but I do not think that that consideration should determine what the travel advice is. The travel advice has to be accurate; 60 million trips are made overseas from this country every year. I would advise everybody to look at the Foreign Office's excellent
The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): My Lords, the Government are keen to involve the public in the legislative process and are doing so through consultation on legislative proposals and through publication of more Bills in draft for pre-legislative scrutiny.
Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Baroness for her Answer. I should probably declare an interest, as founder and president of the Citizenship Foundation, which is pre-eminently preoccupied with matters of citizen information.
In the spirit of Christmas and of fairness, I accept that we are all in the same boat on the issue of citizen competence. Whichever yardstick one useswhether anecdote, polling data or electoral turnout figuresit is common ground that the public have never felt so uninformed as they do today. My question is this: if the public were much better informed and involved, would not the sheer volume and complexity of law-making defeat the purpose of information and consultation, given that we are now legislating at the rate of 12,500 pages of new law a yearthat is two, three and four times the amount generated by comparable countries? Does not this lead to information overload, suffocating bureaucracy and, above all, a sense of public resentment? What will the Government do to address this overarching problem in 2004?
The noble Lord has raised the issue with respect to public information and the volume and complexity of our legislation. There are two separate issues here: first, the content of the legislation and what we are trying to do with it, and, secondly, how we talk about it, when we sit, and the access that the public have to both Houses of Parliament. While there is a volume and degree of complexity in our law-making, the public are quite able to understand when there are major policy issues at stake, if we take the trouble to
Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, it is a challenge to explain the process. For example, the public surely will not understand, because many noble Lords do not understand, why the Government are so eager to allow pre-legislative scrutiny for Bills such as the civil partnership Bill, but not for a Bill that will fundamentally change our constitution and, in particular, our administration of justice.
Baroness Amos: My Lords, the decisions on pre-legislative scrutiny are taken by considering a range of different factors, including urgency, how ready a Bill is for publication and the overall needs of the programme. This Government should be congratulated on bringing Bills forward for pre-legislative scrutiny.
Lord Elis-Thomas: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the development of e-government needs to be paralleled by a development of e-democracy? Should we not therefore have appropriate electronic consultation at the pre-legislative stage of all draft Billswhich should perhaps include most Bills? Is that not particularly relevant when we are dealing with the rather opaque situation of devolution, when primary legislation for Wales is drafted not always with the full interests of Wales or the National Assembly at heart?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, the noble Lord is right. We need to use all the facilities available to us, which is why there is an e-envoy and why all Bills and their Explanatory Notes, and draft Bills, are published on the Parliament website. That is why we are considering ways in which committees can engage more through that process.
Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, I wonder how my noble friend would answer a question that might be asked of her by a member of the general public. Why do some Members of this House insist on resisting the idea that the House of Commons has primacy over the House of Lords? That was indicated by the fact that a majority of this House repeatedly voted against and ultimately destroyed Clauses 41 and 42 of the Criminal Justice Bill, on jury trial, despite the fact that the House of Commons on three separate occasions with increasing majorities indicated that it wanted to keep those clauses in the Bill. The Commons wanted it and we said, "No". I wonder how my noble friend would seek to explain to a member of the general public what is right about that.
The relationship between the two Houses will evolve over time. Looking back at those examples, I am sure that we will be part of that process.
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