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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, my honourable friend in the other place was seeking to emphasise that there would be considerable obligations on airline services in the face of the growing potential of airlines to contribute to pollution and the problems in the atmosphere. Consequently, we are expecting the airlinesBritish Airways is a constructive exampleto recognise their responsibilities as we
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Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that if we were to accept the premise of the Questionthat, in summary, our little bit on Kyoto contributes next to nothingand if all the countries of the world were to adopt that philosophy, we would not beat this dangerous development? Does he further agree that ever since the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, where I happened to be a member of the British delegation, it has been obvious that the countries which are polluting the most really ought to take the lead and countries such as the United Stateswith India, China and so on in due coursemust be brought within the system? It has always been understood that that is the only way to build up the credibility of this system.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friends. Of course, the United Kingdom is responsible for only about 2 per cent of the pollution problem. However, the United States, a significant player in these terms whose federal Government have shown a clear reluctance to engage with this issue, is seeing some of its major cities and a considerable number of its states taking action to deal with the matter within their limited jurisdiction. If the state of California and others believe that they can make a contribution to this situation when their federal Government are not responding, we in Britain certainly have an obligation.
Lord Newby: My Lords, will the Minister accept a cautious welcome on these Benches for his statement that the Government are seeking to shift activity from polluting to employment? But would he accept that our welcome would be even greater if we felt that the Government really had their heart in it and that the measures taken so far have been feeble? Would he urge on his right honourable friend the Chancellor that action could be taken early and easily by introducing a more steeply differentiated vehicle excise duty which hits harder on big, gas-guzzling cars?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, there has of course been an increase in vehicle excise duty and that is a contributing factor in our battle against pollution. But the noble Lord will recognise that we would have to increase vehicle excise duty by astronomical levels before it made a really major impact on the sale of certain cars because it is a small fraction of total costs of those large, polluting cars. I hear what the noble Lord has said, and he will recognise that we have already taken steps in that direction.
The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Amos): My Lords, the Government are grateful to the Law Commission for its work on post-legislative scrutiny. We are consulting within government before we respond formally to the Law Commissions proposals.
Lord De Mauley: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her Answer. Is she aware that, according to the chairman of the Law Commission, only 60 per cent of regulatory impact assessments fully comply with the Cabinet Office requirement that new policies are properly monitored and evaluated? Are the Government satisfied with that?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, the noble Lord will know that a continuous review process takes place in government both in departments and, once legislation has gone through, in departmental review of the process of that legislation. We are committed to looking at whether the other proposals made by the Law Commission with respect to post-legislative scrutiny should be taken forward, but, as I have said, we are consulting on that and a response will be made in due course.
Lord Carlile of Berriew: My Lords, given the numerous occasions on which ministerial statutory interpretation has been rejected by courts in expensive litigation, and given also the occasions on which legislation itself has been rejected as being contrary to international obligations, do the Government not think, especially taking into account the success of pre-legislative scrutiny, that it is time for Parliament to take responsibility for its own failures through detailed post-legislative scrutiny? May we be reassured that the Government will reach a conclusion on this matter soon?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I personally am attracted to the notion of post-legislative scrutiny, as I said at the launch of the Law Commissions report, but I can go no further than that at this stage as we are consulting on this within government and will respond formally to the Law Commissions proposals.
Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, does my noble friend believe, as I do, that it is better to get legislation right by pre-legislative scrutiny rather than post-legislative scrutiny? If she has not already done so, will she look at the experiments that have taken place in the Scottish Parliament in relation to pre-legislative scrutiny and see how they might be adopted in Westminster for the benefit of our legislation as well?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, my noble friend is right to point out the importance of pre-legislative scrutiny, but I think there is also room for post-legislative scrutiny as set out in the Law Commissions proposals. On the example of the Scottish Parliament, that is mentioned in the Law Commission report. I understand that in the Scottish Parliament committees act as both standing committees dealing with legislation and select committees conducting inquiries. In conducting post-legislative scrutiny, no distinction is made between reviewing an area of policy and reviewing the operation of a specific piece of legislation. The system is different from what we have here. If Parliament wants to look at that system, it is of course open to Parliament to do so.
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, the Government will recognise that pre-legislative and post-legislative scrutiny go together. I was struck in the House of Lords annual report by the comment that pre-legislative scrutiny has been used very little in the past year. Can the Government give us some indication of how much they intend to expand pre-legislative scrutiny of this and next years legislative programme?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I am conscious of the fact that in numerical terms, pre-legislative scrutiny has gone down in the past couple of years. We announced at the beginning of this Session four Bills for pre-legislative scrutiny, but I should say to the House that in many cases there is a real-world deadline which means that there is insufficient time to include a draft stage for a Bill. My right honourable friend the Leader of the House of Commons and I have to encourage our colleagues to ensure that Bills are ready on time to enable us to have more pre-legislative scrutiny.
Lord Archer of Sandwell: My Lords, since there are still too many Law Commission reports gathering dust, have the Government any procedural proposals for giving Parliament an early opportunity to debate them?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, my noble and learned friend will know that this issue was raised in the context of the discussion on the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill. My noble friend Lady Ashton told the House that we would come forward with proposals on this after consultation. We are still committed to coming forward with proposals, and that consultation will continue.
Lord Filkin: My Lords, if it is not too self-serving this early in the year, does my noble friend agree that if we get a response from the Government shortly, this House should make a very strong case for its playing a prominent role in any process of post-legislative scrutiny?
Baroness Amos: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend. Bearing in mind the role that we play in legislation at the moment, this House would have a very important role to play in post-legislative scrutiny.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): My Lords, on 14 December, the coroner presiding over the Sergeant Roberts inquest indicated his intention to invite the right honourable Geoff Hoon MP as a witness. Mr Hoon was overseas. The MoD offered a witness who could provide the evidence requested. The coroner and the familys counsel indicated that the witness fully dealt with their questions, and the coroner confirmed that Mr Hoons attendance was not necessary. At no stage did Mr Hoon refuse to give evidence.
Lord Tyler: My Lords, is the Minister aware that Sergeant Roberts came originally from my constituency and that I therefore took his widow and members of his family to see Mr Hoon, who, I have to report to your Lordships House, promised a full investigation and full disclosure of his death? Do the Government now accept the conclusion of the coroner that his death was the result of delay and serious failures? The coroner continued:
Can the Minister confirm the clear inference of the evidence that was given to the inquest: that the deliberate decision to delay the ordering of essential sets of enhanced combat body armour was not a military or, indeed, a Civil Service decision, but was taken by the Secretary of State himself? Can the Minister also confirm the evidence given by Mr David Williams on behalf of the ministry that buying sufficient numbers of ECBA sets would,
Can the Minister confirm that this decision was a misguided attempt to distance the MoD from the conservative demand for a pre-emptive strike against Iraq and President Bushs war preparations? Can the Minister finally confirm that it is not now the habit of his department to allow civil servants to answer for the misjudgment of the Secretary of State?
Lord Drayson: My Lords, I am aware, first, that the noble Lord was the Member for the constituency from which Sergeant Roberts came and I recognise his interest in this matter. He has asked me a number of questions and, with the indulgence of the House, I shall do my best to answer directly the points he made.
I absolutely do not accept that this was a political decision. Having looked at this, I believe that the advice from the military to Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State at the time, relating to decisions about equipment was the right advice. The decision that he took not to take action on certain elements that would give clear indication of a preparation for military action when a diplomatic process was going on was the right thing to do. We need to recognise, as a number of Members of this House who have held positions within the Ministry of Defenceeither as Secretary of State or as ex-chiefs and members of the militaryknow, that often decisions have to be taken in very difficult circumstances and when there is significant diplomatic pressure. Those decisions have to be made taking acceptance of the risks in the real world. The military has to have the ability to do what is necessary to deal with those realities. I believe that we need to have the political will to take those decisions. We have to ask ourselves whether in future we are going to be prepared to take these kinds of decisions. On this side of the House we have that political will. The kind of questioning of decisions that has taken place in those circumstances degrades the military effectiveness of this country and is not to be pursued.
Lord Bach: My Lords, will my noble friend confirm that lessons have been learnt from this tragedy, that enhanced combat body armour is now the standard body armour issued to all personnel on all operations and that that decision was taken by my right honourable friend Geoff Hoon when he was Secretary of State for Defence?
Lord Drayson: My Lords, my noble friend is right when he says that significant changes have been made to the policy on body armour. Decisions have been taken in the light of the lessons learnt from the tragic death of Sergeant Robertsand, if I may say so, I am personally sorry for the death of Sergeant Roberts. His death has led to lessons being learnt. The most important lessons have concerned body armour policy and the provision of that armour. All our troops on operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are now provided with enhanced combat body armour. We have developed the new Kestrel system, which provides protection for top-cover sentries. We have developed the Osprey system, to have the flexibility to meet threats. Lessons have also been learnt regarding logistics and the tracking system. These are a direct result of the lessons learned exercise that took place after Operation TELIC and they have been implemented.
Lord King of Bridgwater: My Lords, I appreciate that the Minister was not there when this happened, but I find his answer most surprising. The Governments strategy at that time was to try and convince Saddam Hussein that if he did not comply with UN resolutions, he would face military action. So the right action to take was to give convincing evidence that military action was likely to take place, including preparing our forces for action if it came to that. It is absolutely tragic that the political decision was taken to somehow conceal the build-up to military action, which was counterproductive for the Governments own policy at that time, which they have avowed to this House and to the country. I cannot accept the answer the Minister has given.
Lord Drayson: My Lords, with deep respect for the noble Lords experience, this was not a political decision. The military was considering and advising on elements of the equipment list. To order substantial numbers of further body armour pieces beyond the number held in stockapproximately 13,000 at the time, if I recall correctlywould have sent a clear signal about the particular type of operation being contemplated. With the political process as it was, it was judged that that was not the right thing to do. Once the United Nations Security Council resolution had been taken, that was progressed.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, my noble friends point was precisely that; it was a political judgment, and the Governments judgment was wrong. Indicating that this was going to go ahead would have put pressure on Saddam Hussein to capitulate. Surely the Minister can understand that point and should address it.
Lord Drayson: My Lords, I fully understand the pointI just disagree with it. The point is that a judgment was taken by the Secretary of State at that time in that post, based on the military advice we had at the time. Having looked at that decision in the circumstances, I believe that it was right. I also respect people saying that they believe that it was the wrong decision, but to say that it was politically motivated is just plain wrong.
Lord Drayson: My Lords, the important point my noble friend is making is that it is absolutely right that we have a process for reviewing the lessons learnt, butthis point came up last year in this House when we were discussing the Armed Forces Billwe have to recognise the realities that our Armed Forces are often faced with. I notice that some people are calling for amendments to a Bill coming through this House so that the Ministry of Defence on operations would become subject to questions of corporate manslaughter. These are aspects of political correctness and political judgment. We have to recognise that our ability to apply military force effectively depends on military commanders and the Ministers who ask them to do the tough, difficult and dangerous tasks and relies on an acceptance of risk in the real world and the political will to get on and do it. I believe that on this side of the House we have that political will.
Lord Grocott: My Lords, with the leave of the House, a Statement entitled Criminal Records: Backlog will be repeated by my noble friend Lady Scotland after the first group of amendments on the Mental Health Bill; that is, the group starting with Amendment No. 6.
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