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Lord Whitty: My Lords, the position of Dr Baverstock as one member of the committee does not in any way undermine the confidence in the totality of the committee. I will not commit myself to publishing the report of the assessor since it will involve some very personal issues, on which I am not sure that it would be sensible for a Minister to give such a commitment.
Lord Hunt of Chesterton: My Lords, CoRWM should be looking at the whole range of science and technology issues. Can the Minister comment on how much the scientific community is being involved? Some of the issues, for example, of connecting fusion and fission power and dealing with wastes are being considered in Russia and the United States. We have no such long-range and wide-ranging programmes in the UK, about which there is a great urgency for the Government to talk to their colleagues in the OST. Does the Minister agree?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the Government keep in touch with all the developing technologies. The role of CoRWM relates specifically to what to do with radioactive waste, much of which exists already, as we have said earlier, irrespective of any further decision on nuclear power. As the noble Lord will know, we are in touch, through the various nuclear authorities, including the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency, with developments internationally and, at research level, with development internationally on fusion as well as current technologies.
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The Earl AttleeTo ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in order to reduce tax and duty evasion, H M Customs and Excise have determined the feasibility of requiring all heavy goods vehicles leaving Great Britain to do so with a nearly full tank of fuel. (Baroness Amos.)
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I trust that it is for the convenience of the House that my noble friend Lord Stoddart and I did not table any amendments at this Third Reading, which might have taken up quite a lot more of your Lordships' time than will the briefest of comments as the Bill leaves your Lordships' House.
In common, I suspect, with most people in this country who do not form part of the growing political and bureaucratic élite, which is taking over more control of our daily lives, I do not think that this Bill should pass.
I suppose that the Bill does one useful thing. By granting new and entirely unnecessary privileges and immunities to a swathe of international bodies and those who are fortunate enough to work for them, it at least makes us sit up and take notice of the wide range of bodies which already enjoy the special status of the new apparat. Let us hope that some good may come of that awareness.
However, I leave the Bill with the comment that the Government have not come near to justifying this extension of diplomatic immunity, designed for mutual protection between sovereign states, to a large number of bodies and people who clearly neither deserve it nor need it. At earlier stages of the Bill, I pressed the Government on the fundamental question of why the bodies and their servants needed these privileges, so I shall not repeat it now. But I fear that the Government have not been able to answer the question at all satisfactorily. They simply assert that the bodies and their servants need these privileges and immunities to function, but they have been unable to say why they need them or why they could not function without them.
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That is the point I would like to leave with your Lordships as the Bill proceeds to another place. I hope that the question may be pursued there and that the process of reversing these unnecessary and divisive privileges may therefore at last begin. In the mean time, I thank the government spokesmen on the Bill, the noble Baronesses, Lady Symons and Lady Crawley, and the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, for their unfailing courtesy and attention throughout our proceedings. They have been trying to justify the unjustifiable, but at least they have done it very politely, and I thank them for that.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I shall say a few words in support of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch. I also join him in thanking and congratulating all those noble Lords on the Government side, and indeed those on the Opposition side, who took part in interesting Committee and Report stages.
I support the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, in being concerned about the proliferation of bodies that are being given immunity. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, first raised the question of a growing élite in the Diplomatic Service and other organisations outside it. He said that it would eventually cause great concern among the public because they would believe that there was one law for a given set of peoplean éliteand another law for others.
As the Bill passed through Committee and Report stages, where it received a pretty good airing and was certainly subjected to critical analysis, noble Lords tried to throw some light on what was actually happening. I hope, therefore, that, when the Government take the Bill to another place, they will have taken note of the opinions of this House. If they do that, perhaps they will be a little more careful about granting any future immunities than they have been on this occasion.
Baroness Crawley: My Lords, while I thank the noble Lords, Lord Pearson of Rannoch and Lord Stoddart, for their kind remarks about the Government Front Bench, their points have been raised at all stages of the Bill and have been responded toobviously not to their satisfaction. I leave them with the thought that I have certainly articulated in my responses; namely, that privileges and immunities are conferred on organisations to ensure that they are able to carry out their functions unimpeded.
"INQUIRIES WHERE MINISTERIAL MISCONDUCT IN ISSUE
(1) This section applies where
(a) a Minister proposes to cause an inquiry to be held, and
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(b) it appears from the proposed terms of reference that the events in question relate wholly or primarily to alleged ministerial misconduct.
(2) The Minster may, if he sees fit, move a motion before the relevant Parliament or Assembly for a resolution approving
(a) his proposal to cause the inquiry to be held, and
(b) his proposals as to the inquiry's terms of reference and the identity of the chairman;
but an inquiry is not invalidated by the absence of such a resolution.
(3) Section 6(1) does not apply in any case in which the Minister has moved a motion in pursuance of this section.
(4) In this section "ministerial misconduct" means misconduct by
(a) the holder of a Ministerial office specified in Schedule 1 to the Ministerial and other Salaries Act 1975 (c. 27),
(b) a member of the Scottish Executive,
(c) the Assembly First Secretary elected by the National Assembly for Wales, or any Assembly Secretary appointed by him, or
(d) the First Minister, deputy First Minister or any other Northern Ireland Minister."
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have tested the patience of your Lordships' House on several occasions at earlier stages of the Bill's progress with respect to the theme that underlies the amendment. I shall on this occasion, therefore, be exceedingly telegraphic.
The Bill is silent on the most constitutionally important form of public inquiryan inquiry that investigates the misdemeanour of a Minister. I suspect that the reason for that is not difficult to discern. Prime Ministers prefer to set up such inquiries under the Royal prerogative, giving them maximum discretion with respect to the procedures that are used in particular cases.
We take a different view. Ministers are supposed to be accountable to Parliament. The committees that investigate ministerial misdemeanours should be committees of Parliament. At Second Reading and at later stages, we set out a proposal that, normally, such committees should be composed of five Members, three from another place and two from your Lordships' House. The three from another place would be representatives of each of the three main political parties, and the two from your Lordships' House would be Cross-Benchers.
Between Committee and Report, the Select Committee on Public Administration in another place published its report. It had devised a scheme that was almost identical to that suggested from the Opposition Benches. On Report, the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, and I set out, in terms, the amendment that the Public Administration Select Committee recommended should be tabled when the Bill reached another place.
On mature consideration, the noble Lord, Lord Goodhart, felt that he could not support the same amendment at Third Reading. As a result of discussions that the noble Lord and I have had, we have come up with a joint amendment that is more flexible than I would have liked but nevertheless ought to give something to those in another place who take a great interest in such matters.
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