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Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, the noble Lord is skating on rather thin ice around the point that I asked. The key is: what is serious damage? When does damage become serious enough to bring into effect the massive powers that Ministers will have under the Bill? Can the Government give me any idea when the damage will become serious enough to trigger these grave consequences?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, we must make a judgment based on the circumstances of a terrorist attack or damage inflicted on infrastructure, the fabric of our life, perhaps by an accident of weather and
Lord Lucas: My Lords, I am grateful for that reply. I am sorry that I do not seem to have swayed the House with my arguments. I remain concerned. As the noble Lord said, one must be careful about threats to one's liberty and way of life. At the moment, the principle threats appears to be the Government, but there is nothing much that I can do about that now. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, as, I think, I said about the previous group of amendments, the Government are committed to ensuring that the drafting of the definition conforms to the Lucas principles of simplicity, clarity and consistency. It is in that spirit that I speak to the government amendments in the group.
is capable of constituting a threat of damage to human welfare. With the advent of e-commerce and the networked society, electronic communications have become integral to our lives, and the failure of an electronic system of communication could precipitate an emergency or exacerbate its effects. However, the formulation "system of communication" clearly comprises electronic systems, and there is no need to refer to it specifically. In the spirit of the rule followed by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, we propose to remove it.
The Government have looked again at Clause 1(3)(a) in the light of similar concerns raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, in Committee. The Government are committed to striking the right balance between, on the one hand, economy of words and, on the other, ensuring that we give local responders the clarity that they need. The Bill refers to,
On reflection, we think that we can rationalise the drafting. There can be little doubt that oil is a chemical that can cause serious damage to the environment. Given the reference to chemical matter, it is unnecessary to refer to oil separately.
may constitute a threat of serious damage to the environment. We agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, that his amendments will make the drafting of the clause clearer, sharper and more concise and therefore we propose to accept them. I beg to move.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, that is a nice surprise to end the Session with. I am extremely grateful and, again, I thank the noble Lord's Bill team. They have been helpful throughout. This is not the greatest of their kindnesses to me, but, none the less, I appreciate it as a final one.
Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, I thank the Government for considering the amendment again. It is similar to one that we tabled in Committee. After hearing the concerns expressed by the Law Society and British Telecom, we felt that the drafting was too ambiguous. I am pleased that the Government have reconsidered and tabled amendments that we find more satisfactory.
Lord Elton: My Lords, if nobody else wants to say anything, I shall congratulate my noble friend and thank the Government for recognising his ability to struggle through Committee and Report with the most appalling cold.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 refer to minor changes to the amendment successfully moved on Report last week by my noble friend Lord Jopling. Unfortunately, my noble friend cannot be present today, due to an important engagement that keeps him away from your Lordships' House, so I have agreed to move the amendment on his behalf.
The amendments would correct one word in my noble friend's amendment and ensure that the clause had the meaning that he intended. I hope that the Government will accept the minor changes. I beg to move.
We will not contest the amendments this afternoon. The noble Lord, Lord Jopling, rightly moved his amendments, which were agreed by your Lordships' House. However, as I argued then and as we will continue to argue, the noble Lord's argument was fallacious. We believe that powers that were put in placeironically by the government of which the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, was a memberduring the 1980s and as late as 1990 already provide government with sufficient cover.
We will have to return to the issue, so I will remind your Lordships' House of the situation. Under the Airports Act 1986, the Secretary of State may give directions to the operators of airports in the interests of national security. The Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990 gives the Government a wide-ranging power to require port authorities to undertake screening and monitoring. Detailed requirements relating to port and shipping security have been adopted at international level. In particular, there is the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code. At Community level, there is Regulation (EC)725/2004 on enhancing ship and port facility security. Those include provisions relating to security assessments for ports, provision of information and port facility plans. The provisions are enforced under the Ship and Port Facility (Security) Regulations 2004 (SI 2004/1495).
Under the regulations, ships and port facilities can be inspected for the purpose of ensuring that they are secure. The regulations also enable any property or apparatus found on the ship or at the port to be tested and allow steps to be taken to ascertain whether security practices and procedures are being followed. Under Clause 5 of this Bill, an order could be made requiring local authorities or any other category 1 responder to perform their functions in a particular way. That could include the purchase and deployment of equipment, as the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, suggested.
The powers conferred on the Government by the noble Lord's amendment are unnecessary and redundant. In addition, the new provisions could undermine the robust procedural safeguards set out in the existing powers. I forwarded correspondence to the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, setting out the way in which the existing legislation worked in much more detail, as well as the scope of the powers and the procedures to be followed when they were used.