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The Earl of Kinnoull: My Lords, the noble Earl may wish arguments to be put at this stage although clearly we hope to accept his amendment. If there is one improvement in the Bill which I believe is much welcomed outside, it is the acceptance of the deregulation of the legal fiefdom on drawing up agricultural tenancies. It is a sensible, practical and wise decision of my noble friend and his department to accept that the RICS is capable and professionally competent to do so. I, too, have received communication from the CAAV. It explained that although 90 per cent. of its members are members of one of the other two bodies, in particular the RICS, 10 per cent. are not. That 10 per cent. are more than competent. They are practical practitioners who probably know more than most professionals about the subject. Therefore, I hope that my noble friend will at least say that he will examine with sympathy the proposal that CAAV members will be accepted.
Earl Howe: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Gallacher, for introducing his amendment, the purpose of which is identical to government Amendment No. 6 that is grouped with it and to which I now speak. I am grateful to the noble Lord and to my noble friend Lord Kinnoull for their support.
As I said at Report stage, the Government have concluded that it would be appropriate to amend the Solicitors Act 1974 to empower members of the RICS to draw up farm business tenancy agreements of more than three years' duration and prepare other instruments relating to farm business tenancies. This amendment adds a new exception in Section 22 of that Act which will allow RICS associates or fellows to undertake that work. I am satisfied that those RICS members have sufficient expertise to carry out that function and that they may be able to offer the service at a lower cost to the parties.
Those are the words used in the amendment. This is needed to cater for the situation in which the instrument does not become a farm business tenancy because it fails to meet the conditions set out in Clause 1 of the Bill. This phrase avoids the RICS member committing an offence in that situation, provided, of course, that he or she had reasonable grounds for believing that a farm business tenancy was being created.
The noble Lord, Lord Gallacher, asked me to consider the proposal that fellows and associates of the ISVA should also be empowered to prepare tenancy agreements. My noble friend Lord Kinnoull referred to the CAAV in the same context. The first proposed amendment to enable RICS members to prepare tenancy agreements was debated at Committee stage on 13th December, as noble Lords will recall. Although my response at that time was not particularly encouraging, it was clear that certain noble Lords wished to pursue the matter. It is therefore a little unfortunate that these further proposals were not raised until after we had already debated the matter twice and the Government had consulted interested parties on what amendment should be tabled.
Before we could consider, in the amendment which I had tabled, extending the exemption to members of any other organisation we would have to be absolutely convinced that their qualifications and expertise were equal to those of associates and fellows of the RICS. The noble Lord, Lord Gallacher, indicated that he believed that that was so, but I have no independent information on that. What I can say is that those members of the Incorporated Society of Valuers and Auctioneers who are also members of the RICS would, of course, be able to undertake that work.
My noble friend Lord Stanley expressed the hope that members of those bodies would be properly insured were they to be allowed to sit alongside RICS associates and fellows in that context of the Bill. We have raised that point with the RICS. It has told us that it will revise its general rules of conduct and will be advising its members to obtain adequate indemnity cover. I cannot speak for the CAAV members because we have not yet had discussions with that body. I have no doubt, nevertheless, that the matter will need to be considered further. The noble Lord has the privilege of moving his amendment, or not, as he decides.
Lord Gallacher: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Earl for the detail of his reply and for the sympathetic way in which he dealt with the problem which has arisen rather late in the day. I would have left the matter entirely for another place because I am a great believer in the avoidance of the short pass. Invariably, if you go for it you get your leg broken; and if you do not the home supporters boo you. Nevertheless, we have served sufficient notice to allow inquiries to be made and I warmly welcome that fact.
The provision is a major concession for which we are extremely grateful. If it is to be extended in any fashion, the Government have a right and a duty to be satisfied that that extension is justified even though the number of persons involved may not be numerous. I also agree with the importance of full insurance for all who are likely to benefit from the concession.
I leave the nature of the consultation for the Minister to decide. However, the industry groups are close to the matter and may have a point of view of value to the Government in deciding what, if anything, they will do about the request.
I said at the outset that Amendment No. 5 had been tabled only as an insurance policy. From what the noble Earl said, I am satisfied that Amendment No. 6 fully covers what we are anxious to see provided in the Bill. In view of that, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
After Clause 33, insert the following new clause:
Viscount Goschen: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I should like to repeat the Answer to a Private Notice Question which has been given by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport in another place. The Answer is as follows:
"The Channel Tunnel (Security) Order 1994 requires the operators of the tunnel and of the trains which go through it to carry out counter-terrorist security measures. Similar measures are applied in France and Belgium as agreed between our three Governments. The operators are responsible for ensuring that the security measures are properly applied: here my department's inspectors give instructions, offer advice and make both announced and unannounced inspections.
"The Government's requirements have not changed since the tunnel was opened. The House will not expect me to detail the requirements. Suffice it to say that security measures are closely tailored to the threat, as assessed by the Government's security advisers. Among other measures, all traffic in the tunnel, passenger and freight, is liable to be searched. There is not and never has been a requirement for all passengers or vehicles to be searched. On the other hand, permitting a passenger to get off a train prior to arrival at his destination and leaving behind an unattended bag is a potentially serious matter, which could be a breach of security requirements.
"Madam Speaker, like other right honourable and honourable Members of this House, I take security issues very seriously. I will decide what further action needs to be taken in the light of the reports which I have commissioned and any further security advice which I receive."
Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, the House will be indebted to the Minister for repeating the Answer which was given in another place about a matter which will obviously give rise to a considerable degree of public concern about security at the various ends of the Channel Tunnel routenot only here but in France and Belgium. While we recognise that the Minister cannot be as transparent about security issues as he might be about other matters, nonetheless the public will remain very concerned until they have some further response from the Minister following the inquiries that he has indicated will be undertaken.
What was exposed in the Observer newspaper yesterday gives rise to serious allegations of breaches of the Channel Tunnel (Security) Order. That order came into operation in February of last year. That the Government themselves are concerned about these matters is exemplified by the fact that they have ordered an inquiry to be undertaken. What concerns me is that the Minister gave assurances when the order was being debated last year that tunnel security would be as tight as security at international airports. Perhaps that was an unwise statement to make because I do not for the life of me see how that could be complied with. Nonetheless, the statement was made to Parliament and in a sense, therefore, Parliament was misled. The Minister shakes his head. In fact, the Minister of State wrote to members of the committee on 3rd March saying:
Is not an abundance of evidence disclosed in the newspaper article that luggage was not checked or X-rayed before passengers boarded trains and that passengers were not challenged, randomly or otherwise, by security officials? Indeed, I have to say that that
The Minister has already alluded to the seriousness of one matter where a package was left on board the train when someone had disembarked. In another instance a passenger was asked the question, "Are you British?", and it seemed to be enough to assure everyone when he replied in the affirmative. I am not sure that that constitutes the greatest surveillance with regard to security measures.
I do not want to take the matter very much further except to say that the Government have an obligation to report further to the House as and when their current inquiries, together with the operators' inquiries, are completed. We do not ask them to go into great detail but we want to know that the situation will demonstrably improve from the present.
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