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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, what assessment have the Government made of the amount of uranium available worldwide, given any new nuclear build programmes likely to take place internationally and that Britain has other extremely strong renewables such as tidal power and wind power?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, there are other sources of energy but, as always, the question is what costs are attached. At this point, the cost of tidal is enormously high and therefore it is very difficult to use it as a source of energy.
Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Liberal Democrats' shadow spokesman on the environment is the Member of Parliament for Lewes and that, even though he is
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opposed to civil nuclear power development, his constituents are within a relatively short distance of innumerable nuclear power stations on the French coast? When examining future policy, will the Government take into account that, notwithstanding any decision taken in regard to nuclear power stations within the UK, many in this country will still be very close to nuclear power and waste?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the proximity of some constituents to French nuclear power stations will probably not be the deciding factor in our review of energy. But it raises a very interesting issue: we are apparently prepared always in these circumstances to take energy created by nuclear power in a different country while sometimes resisting it in our own. That does not seem logical whatever one's view is on whether nuclear energy is a good thing.
Lord Jenkin of Roding: My Lords, the noble Lord's announcement during the energy debate that the Government regarded nuclear power as a renewable source was very welcome. Will the review cover the application of the climate-change levy to nuclear power stations?
Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, if any changes are made to energy policy during the review, one of the central things that the review group must consider is what financial incentives are necessary to deliver that energy policy.
Lord Bridges: My Lords, do the Government believe that this is the appropriate moment for British Energy's subsidiary Westinghouse to be sold, when it might play an important part in our future work on nuclear energy? Do the Government approve of that sale?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I welcome the Metropolitan Police Commissioner's call for a wide-ranging public debate about the kind of police service
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that we want in this country. What is not required, however, is a wide-ranging review. The Government already have in place an ambitious programme of reform for the police service to ensure that it is fit for purpose in the 21st century.
Lord Greaves: My Lords, after I tabled this Question on Friday, we heard the appalling news from Bradford, the city where I grew up, in Yorkshire, of the shooting of Police Constable Sharon Beshenivsky. The sympathy of the whole House goes out to her family and everybody who knew her on that shocking and appalling event. The event has perhaps acted as a catalyst for much more debate about the police and the future of the police than Sir Ian Blair expected when he gave his Dimbleby lecture. Does the Minister agree that, if lots of police routinely carried guns, inevitably more people, including more police officers and other innocent people, would get shot? Will the Government give a lead in the debate on the matter?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the Government, as I am sure that the House will appreciate, are greatly saddened by the tragic death of PC Sharon Beshenivsky. It was a shocking and senseless crime, which serves to remind us all of just what a difficult and dangerous job our serving police officers fulfil every day. That said, the policy in this country has long been that the police should not be armed, which gives a character to our policing that we should not readily give up. Those words and views were echoed by Sir Ian Blair when he spoke last week.
We do not want to see wholesale arming of the police. Clearly, there are discussions and debates to be had about the level of arms and training which police officers should have. Of course, there will need to be continued debate about other equipment that police officers will need to ensure their adequate, proper and full protection.
Lord Waddington: My Lords, why are the Government hell bent on making decision-making less local and further from the people? Will not that be the effect of reducing the number of police forces from 43 to about 15, just as it would have been the effect of their plans for regional government? What about a bit of democracy for a change?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Lord is referring to the Government's view that we need to look at the size and structure of our police forces. In a sense, it comes back to Sir Ian Blair's Dimbleby lecture, asking what sort of police service we want; how we make decisions about the shape of the police service; and who should decide. The move to consider restructuring the police forces in this country has come from within the police service. We await their views on the size and capacity that they feel local police services should have and hold to retain their effectiveness in this century.
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Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, there is a huge amount in the commissioner's speech with which everyone can agree, but will my noble friend confirm that the Government have no plans to absorb the British Transport Police into the metropolitan force? He will recall that on many occasions in this House the work of the BTP has been widely praised, particularly after the terrorist outrages. Does my noble friend agree that the case for keeping a separate police force responsible for the Underground and overground transport policing is still very strong?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the Government certainly pay tribute to the work of the British Transport Police, but we are also aware that a debate is going on about the value of its current independencecertainly in the capitalfrom the Met and the City forces. Currently, we do not have plans to restructure in the way in which the noble Lord suggests, but no doubt that debate will continue as part of the generalised debate about the structure and shape of organisation for police forces up and down the country.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, what comment does the Minister have on Sir Ian Blair's suggestion that better paid police officers should have summary powers to impose driving disqualifications and anti-social behaviour orders on the spot?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I have not looked at that in detail in preparing for this Question. I think that the Government's view is that it is an interesting suggestion and something that we should look at along with a range of other ideas that Sir Ian Blair offered up in what I thought was an extremely interesting and thoughtful lecture.
Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, given the tragic death of Jean Charles de Menezes and the recent appalling shooting of PC Sharon Beshenivsky, what steps is the Minister taking to ensure that any further debate on matters such as shoot to kill and the arming of some officers takes place in an open and transparent way?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I accept the invitation, in a sense, that the noble Lord makes. This is part of a very important continuing debate about the nature of modern policing. Sir Ian Blair has done the nation a great service in offering ideas and refreshed thinking on that subject. That debate needs to continue. It is certainly our desire in the Government to make sure that it is a vigorous debate because we need to engender further public support for our continuing reform process.
Baroness Henig: My Lords, does not my noble friend agree that modern police forces need to be large enough to have the strategic capacity both to deal with level 2 crime and to build strong links with their neighbourhoods? It is important that both of these aspects are properly covered.
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