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Lord Hanningfield: My Lords, I would like the noble Lord to comment on the particular statistic that must concern us most of all: over 20 per cent of accidents and 25 per cent of deaths involve males under 25. Should the Government not do more and look more closely at that category of young people?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, we do, and have been doing, much more. The noble Lord is right to highlight the deaths of young people on the roads. Young people and, of course, the elderly are most vulnerable. But child deaths and serious injuries are down by 52 per cent over the last decade, which is testament to the hard work that has been put in through enforcement. We have increased fixedpenalty fines for seatbelt offences by some 20 per cent. There has been a 70 per cent increase in fixed penalties for the use of mobile phones, and a 5 per cent increase in breath tests over the period from 2004 to 2005. We continue to bear down on these issues, but there is always more that we can do.

Noble Lords: My Lords—

Baroness Boothroyd: Cross Bench!

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): My Lords, we should hear from the noble Lord, Lord Low.

Lord Low of Dalston: My Lords, the Minister will be aware of the grave concern expressed by visually impaired and other disabled people about the creation of so-called shared-space schemes in town centres and other public spaces. These schemes create a free-for-all in which motorists, cyclists and pedestrians are expected to share the same space and negotiate priority and right of way by eye contact. Will the Government take steps to halt all further development of such schemes and have existing schemes dismantled until reliable means can be found of ensuring that blind, disabled, elderly and other vulnerable pedestrians can negotiate such areas in safety? If not, what steps will the Government take to ensure that shared space initiatives do not have a deleterious effect on the road safety and independence of disabled and other vulnerable pedestrians?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Lord makes an important intervention. I know that shared-space schemes are controversial. The notion has been imported into our own thinking. Motorists seem rather keener on it than pedestrians. For understandable reasons, pedestrians should be very concerned. We must rightly keep these issues under review, but the noble Lord’s strong words of caution are absolutely right.

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, to return to the point of the noble Lord, Lord Hanningfield, there is increasing death and lack of safety among drivers under 25. This is attributed to the fact that the wearing of seat belts is very lax among that group. Will the Minister consider making the non-wearing of a seat belt an endorsable offence, as it is in Northern Ireland, as a means of reducing this needless waste of life?

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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Lord makes a good point; it is something we actively review. I certainly understand and share his concern.

Baroness Sharples: My Lords, can the Minister say whether I am within my rights when, at a pedestrian crossing, a cyclist rides straight at me when I have the lights in my favour? I swiped one with a bag the other day. Would I be in trouble?

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I wonder whether I should—no, I will be careful on this. I am a great admirer of the noble Baroness, and I think she probably did the right thing.

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, while recognising that the best bicyclists on our roads—I am looking at the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn—are very good, will my noble friend accept that there is an increasing hazard on our roads caused by cyclists who do not believe that the existing laws apply to them? Can he ensure that serious attention is given to the necessity of wearing front lights, having rear reflectors and regarding traffic lights as something more than decorative as far as our two-wheeled road users are concerned?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I live in a city where cycling is a popular pastime. Over the years in which I have been involved in public life in Brighton, I have had many complaints of a similar nature to those which the noble Lord has brought to the attention of your Lordships’ House this morning. I entirely understand what he is saying, and his words are well meant. Of course I will reflect this back to the department.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, will the Minister’s review also look at the deaths sadly caused to motorcyclists, particularly on rural roads? There are more deaths on rural roads than on the big urban roadways. Also, will the review take into account the use of sat-navs these days which, instead of sending drivers down the main roads, send them down a lot of country roads, causing a lot of damage to some and adding to the likelihood of accidents?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Baroness raises an important issue. Sat-navs can send out the wrong signals. We see problems, particularly with motorcyclists, on the more minor roads. Of course, we keep these things carefully under review. Perhaps that is something for us to work on more with those who provide the sat-nav intelligence and a further discussion that we should have.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: My Lords—

Lord Rooker: My Lords, we are in the 24th minute; we must move on.

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Airports: Luggage

11.29 am

Lord Dykes asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, 22 airports have been given permission to lift the one-bag rule, having demonstrated sufficient screening capacity while also maintaining our security standards. We expect all airports to be ready in due course. Cabin-bag policy is an operational matter for individual airlines.

Lord Dykes: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Choice and competition are important and this is a private sector matter, yet security pressures and just plain common sense indicate that an official or government-led initiative would bring results here. Airport passengers and travellers are already bullied, harassed and overstressed, and they find it hard to get through these difficult circumstances, particularly in large airports such as Heathrow. Would it not make sense for everybody to know that the same limit applies, particularly for short-haul flights in economy class?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I understand the noble Lord’s point, but we made it plain at the outset when we implemented the one-bag rule back in November 2006 that we hoped that it would not be for a lengthy period. Of course passengers want to be able to take more of their close personal possessions on to aircraft, which is why we have relaxed the restriction. Since the announcement was made and implemented in the 22 airports that have been given permission to lift the one-bag rule, things so far appear to be working pretty well. The simple advice that I would give to passengers at different airports is to check with their airlines what restrictions apply and how the airline is intending to operate them.

Lord Trimble: My Lords, is it simply a coincidence that the restrictive one-bag rule is being retained in all airports in Northern Ireland?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the baggage restrictions will be relaxed where an airport can match the standard of being able to carry out effective and efficient checks on bags with the new technology and so on. That will happen once we have made an assessment and are satisfied that the airport can conduct its security checks with proper care.

Lord Bradshaw: My Lords, to go back to the Minister’s first Answer, there is a wide range between what appears to be acceptable on one airline and what appears to be acceptable on another. Is enforcement a matter for the individual airline or is it in accordance with rules laid down by the Civil Aviation Authority?

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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, it is for the airport itself to carry out the security checks. Individual airlines operate different policies. For instance, both easyJet and Ryanair had a one-bag rule before we introduced the security measures back in 2006, presumably for what they considered to be the best commercial reasons.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, women wish to have a handbag for their possessions. They do not automatically have all the pockets that men have and they need to be able to carry their passport and things in a handbag. Under the one-bag restriction, you have been obliged to put your handbag inside whatever other bag you have, which has been extremely inconvenient, to say the least. I thought that the one-bag airlines, such as Ryanair, had always allowed women to carry a handbag as well; I do not think that it had to be included in your one bag in the past.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am trying to think back to the last time I used Ryanair—

A noble Lord: Carrying a handbag?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: I was coming to that point, my Lords. I was about to say that my dearly beloved partner is of course a handbag carrier—and don’t I know it. The noble Baroness may well be right, but I will check.

Lord Bilimoria: My Lords, the noble Lord’s Question is about on board luggage. I declare an interest, having arrived at Heathrow this morning from India. Given the state of facilities at Heathrow at the moment, you are lucky even to get on board. In spite of the fact that Terminal 5 will soon come on board, what will the Government do to improve the facilities at Heathrow? Heathrow is in many cases the global airport, and it affects our competitiveness. Yet, whether in baggage handling or any other aspect, it is deteriorating rapidly.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, that question has much exercised your Lordships in the past. Of course, it is something that BAA at Heathrow is working on. BAA is improving facilities; it has an improvement programme that runs to 2012, and I know that it is keen to continue with that upgrade. I understand that some facilities at Heathrow have improved during the past few months. Let us hope that that improvement continues. To go back to the main subject of the Question, at Heathrow the rule on hand luggage has been relaxed, and passengers are now able to take on two items of hand luggage.

Lord Lawson of Blaby: My Lords, the Minister mentioned new technology. When will the technology have developed to the extent that it is able to distinguish between a bottle of Armagnac and a bottle of high explosive, so that, living in Armagnac as I do, I will be able to bring a bottle of Armagnac into this country as hand baggage?

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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, perhaps when it gets to that point the noble Lord will share the Armagnac with others in your Lordships’ House.


11.36 am

Lord Grocott: My Lords, with the permission of the House, a Statement will be repeated later today on UK energy policy. It will be delivered by my noble friend Lord Jones of Birmingham, and we shall take it between the two debates; that is, after the debate being introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace.

While I am on the subject of Statements, may I offer one passing thought to the House? I have received, as have others, I am sure, a few complaints lately that the 20 minutes of Back-Bench contributions to Statements enable only a small number of people to contribute. That must partly be due to the length of ministerial responses, about which we will do our best, but it is also due to the length of Back-Bench questions or comments. After one recent Statement, there were only five Back-Bench contributions in the 20 minutes. I just offer a little homily to the House that perhaps we can improve on that.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, is it not a fact that, when Statements are made, the opposition parties can reply by making a speech but Back-Benchers are supposed only to ask questions?

Lord Grocott: Yes, my Lords. I took the precaution of bringing the Companion with me, which states that,

That is a rather long-winded way of saying, “Keep it short”.

Business of the House: Debates Today

11.37 am

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in the name of my noble friend Lady Ashton on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the debate on the Motion in the name of Lord Wallace of Saltaire set down for today shall be limited to three hours and that in the name of Lord Greaves to two hours.(Lord Rooker.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Armed Forces: US Missile Defence

11.38 am

Lord Wallace of Saltaire rose to call attention to the United Kingdom’s commitment to participate in the United States missile defence system, and to the implications of recent negotiations between the United States and other states for the deployment of that system; and to move for Papers.

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The noble Lord said: My Lords, the context for this debate is provided by the Government’s commitment to participate in the United States missile defence system, slipped out in a Written Statement one day before Parliament rose last July. Since then, the Government have offered no opportunity to debate this decision in either House, despite the promise that Tony Blair, as Prime Minister, made in the other place last February that:

He was forced to say that only because the Economist had just published an article detailing negotiations under way between the UK and the US in Washington, based on Washington sources.

Mr Blair also promised that when a decision was made there would be a,

No such discussion has yet taken place. We therefore offer the Lords the opportunity to consider Her Majesty's Government’s acceptance that the US will install new equipment at Menwith Hill, in addition to switching on the enhanced radar at RAF Fylingdales, in the hope that the Government will be sufficiently embarrassed to provide a fuller and more detailed justification of their decision, and to grant time for an appropriate debate also in the other place.

We are not, as a party, opposed in all circumstances to the concept of missile defence—no more than we are opposed in desperate circumstances to nuclear weapons, dreadful as they are. We are however committed to a multilateral approach to international security and to the development of a treaty-based framework for controlling and reducing the world’s dependence on armaments, most of all nuclear weapons. In the course of the 1970s and 1980s an extensive multilateral framework was constructed for limiting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the treaty to ban weapons in outer space, and the 1972 bilateral US-Soviet Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. This framework has sadly been significantly weakened over the past seven years by the actions of the Bush Administration.

The case for a more determined effort to build a multilateral regime to control fissile materials and to reverse the proliferation of nuclear weapons was strongly argued in an article jointly signed by George Shultz, Bill Perry, Henry Kissinger and Sam Nunn in the Wall Street Journal on 4 January last year—not a group of lily-livered liberals but hard-headed and experienced American statesmen who recognise that a stronger global framework to end what they called “the nuclear madness” is essential. In that context, some precautionary research on the long-term possibilities of missile defence, in case efforts at multilateral regime-building fail, is justifiable—but not a rush to deployment.

That was, until 2001, the position of the Labour Government. When the Republican majority in Congress attempted to push President Clinton towards a programme of national missile defence in 1999-2000, Peter Hain, as a Foreign Office Minister, declared:

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while Geoff Hoon, as Secretary of State for Defence, expressed concern that such a development would breach the ABM treaty, telling the Commons,

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