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Lord Clarke of Hampstead: My Lords, does the Minister agree that mini-roundabouts often form an island in a road? Very often, cars are seen to go right across them, causing a danger. Would the Minister agree that, where possible, it would be appropriate to erect warning signs ahead of a mini-roundabout in order that people can take appropriate action instead of having to brake sharply when they reach it, sometimes going straight across?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, all roundabouts need adequate warning signs. My noble friend is reflecting the fact that many motorists have found mini-roundabouts particularly difficult. Certainly, the multiple roundabouts that were introduced in one or two places a number of years ago have created a degree of complexity that has worried motorists. However,
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roundabouts are very successful in guaranteeing traffic flow and the number of accidents on them is not particularly excessive.
Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, it is now common practice to divide the carriageways of former three-lane roads and the approaches to traffic islands with white hatching marks. Those are not enforceable. Is it the Minister's intention to make them enforceable, thereby helping many people to avoid colliding with traffic islands and enhancing road safety by reducing the chance of head-on collisions?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the noble Lord is right that such markings are not enforceable. They are meant as a warning to motorists and an indication that they need to take care wherever those signs appear. It is certainly the case that if we are not successful in that strategy, and collisions with traffic islands then occur more frequently, we shall need to look at toughening up enforcement measures, as the noble Lord indicated. As I said earlier, as with all road furniture, from time to time vehicles collide with traffic islands. That is true of all signs. The fault more often lies with the driver than with the inert sign.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the prime purpose of a traffic island is to protect pedestrians from cars? Would he not therefore also agree that the wider and higher the island is, generally, the more protection they will get? If an incident involves the car hitting it and breaking its axle, is that not a good price to pay to protect the pedestrian?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I think the House has some sympathy for that viewpoint about the protection of pedestrians at traffic islands. But the question is about all traffic islands, and there are many traffic islands which are not designed to protect pedestrians at all. In fact, the pedestrians are nowhere near them. The islands are there to separate traffic on two lanes of carriageway. It is those which give rise to a certain anxiety over the height of the kerbstone and maintenance of the signs. It is very important that all such signsremember, these signs are in the middle of the roadshould be maintained and entirely visible by day and night.
Whether the withdrawal by the Secret Intelligence Service in July 2003 of two reports, as described in paragraph 405 of the Butler report, was revealed to the Hutton inquiry; and, if so, whether the inquiry was prevented from disclosing this withdrawal.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, the Hutton inquiry was not informed of the withdrawal of the reports. As the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, said, his remit was not to look at the wider intelligence picture. Paragraph 9 of his report states:
"The issue whether, if approved by the Joint Intelligence Committee and believed by the Government to be reliable, the intelligence contained in the dossier was nevertheless unreliable is a separate issue which I consider does not fall within my terms of reference."
Lord Owen: My Lords, is it not an indictment of our democratic procedures that not only was the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hutton, not informed about the matterI gather from the newspapers that he has expressed some concern about thisbut that two parliamentary inquiries were not informed about it, and above all, more extraordinarily, that the Prime Minister himself read about this only when he read the Butler report? Are we to assume that the Foreign Secretary was not told about this by the head of MI6?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as the Prime Minister has made clear in another place, there are indeed criticisms in the Butler report that have to be addressed. However, I do not believe that one can go so far as the noble Lord, Lord Owen, in saying that it is an indictment of our entire system. I would also not wish the noble Lord, Lord Owen, to run away with the idea that others were not informed about the withdrawal, because he would not be correct in drawing that conclusion from what I have said. What I have done is to answer his question about the Hutton report. Others were informed about the withdrawal.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I will do my best to give your Lordships a view on that, although I do not think that I can be absolutely exhaustive. The Office of the Prime Minister has already made clear that he knew about the withdrawal of the reports as a result of the Butler inquiry. My noble friend's question demands a slightly longer reply than normal, and I hope that your Lordships will bear with me.
On 17 July 2003, the chief of the Secret Intelligence Service told the Intelligence and Security Committee that the intelligence was being withdrawn, on the condition that they did not refer to it in their report. This was because the sourcing was still being investigated as a sensitive operational matter. The report was formally withdrawn on July 29 2003, and the investigation continued. But C pointed out to the ISC that he still
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believed the information was correct, although SIS could no longer substantiate the sourcing chain and hence the report was being withdrawn.
The Foreign Secretary first became aware of the withdrawal of this report when he agreed, in response to a request from the SIS on 8 September 2003, that the reports in question should be disclosed to the Intelligence and Security Committee.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the other place is discussing the Butler report today. Can the Government give us an assurance that this House will also have an opportunity to discuss and debate the conclusions of this further inquiry? It has clearly not yet given the public reassurance that everything has now been uncovered.
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, will expect me to say on these occasions, that is a matter for the usual channels. I understand the noble Lord's desire to have a fuller opportunity to discuss this as soon as possible in oral questions. No doubt the usual channels will have their usual discussions on that.
Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, has the Minister has the chance to read the latest report of the Intelligence and Security Committee? Has she identified the most serious criticism by the all-party committee, that the Government's attitude towards the recommendations that it madeand their failure to respond to a number of points made in that reportis deeply unsatisfactory? Does she recognise that when the noble Lord, Lord Owen, talks about the democratic processes, that is one of them, which, in my view, the Government are treating with increasing contempt while failing to respond to sensible suggestions made by that committee?
Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord King, asked me a direct question about that report, no, I have not read it. I shall certainly do so as a result of the noble Lord's inquiry.
This matter has now been looked at by four different reviews. It has been looked at by the ISC, by the FAC, by the Hutton inquiry and by the noble Lord, Lord Butler. On all points, the Government have been acquitted of acting in bad faith. The noble Lord raises points which are perhaps more about the machinery of government, and some of them were addressed in the report of the noble Lord, Lord Butler. As my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has said, he accepts the findings of the Butler report.
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