|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I bow to his great knowledge of the nuclear industry. However, does he agree that one of the problems of the nuclear industry is that it is difficult to draw a hard boundary line between the civil and military sides? Part of the problem which the Bill seeks to address, particularly if one is talking about exports, as the noble Lord was, is that one needs to be sure that civil plants are being used only for civil purposes, that research is carefully watched and that exported equipment is also carefully monitored in order to ensure that it is not being diverted from civil to military operations.
Lord Gray of Contin: My Lords, I wholly agree with the noble Lord. I hope that I did not in any way suggest that I was doing other than supporting the legislation. When one speaks towards the end of a debate it is not unusual to feel that all that can be said has been said. I found today that even in this short debate the three speakers who preceded me said most of the things about the Bill that could be said. That is why I used the occasion to draw the attention of the Government to the fact that they are not being positive enough in their support of nuclear power.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, it is my experience in this House that even when in the course of a long debate everything that needs to be said has been said, the debate goes on because it has not been said by everyone. Until everything that needs to be said has been said by everyone, your Lordships find it difficult to draw a debate to a conclusion.
I am grateful to noble Lords who have spoken for the support they have given to the Bill, not just in general but in a great deal of the detail, either implicitly or explicitly. I am grateful for the support they have given to the need for us to play our full part in the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons and for the particular measures which are necessary in order to achieve that goal and to provide the primary legislation which is necessary for that purpose. I am grateful for the suggestion, which could never have come from me in the first place, that we could curtail or even eliminate the need for a Committee stage. Perhaps I may try to answer as many of the specific questions as I can.
The noble Lord, Lord Mackay, teased me about the Greenock sheriffs. My understanding is that the Greenock sheriffs were saying that no penalty should be imposed rather than that no offence had been committed. However, if I am wrong, I certainly yield to the noble Lord's closer local knowledge. In any case, I rather assume that the Government will not allow free access to Trident nuclear installations and they will see that Scots law upholds their denial of access.
The noble Lord asked me whether Clause 2(3)(b) is, in effect, retrospective legislation. Retrospectivity would mean that the Bill changed the law for the past. It does not do that. What it means is that, in future, notice served under Clause 2 can ask for information about events which occurred before the Bill came into force, which is not quite the same thing as changing the law for the past.
The noble Lord asked me about the regulations. When I showed him the copy of what is in the Printed Paper Office and in the Library, I think that he was satisfied. Perhaps I may also say that we have produced a memorandum for the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee. I understand that the committee will be considering the memorandum at a meeting this week. We shall, of course, pay full attention to anything the committee says. It is a rather good precedent, to which I cannot promise to adhere in the future, that we produced a draft of the regulations before Second Reading. Quite a number of complaints have been made about failure to produce regulations. But they are certainly available for inspection.
The noble Lord referred in particular to Clause 3 and asked what is meant by "persons of any description". The provision sets out the types of person who need to identify themselves as being potential informants. These are people who have carried out certain manufacturing, assembly or construction activities, certain research and development activities or exported certain goods. They are the ones we expect may be suitable informants.
The noble Lord asked whether the optional presence of a constable indicates a judgment as to whether there would be any difficulty in achieving access. The answer is that it will be the responsibility of the applicant for a warrant to decide whether the presence of a constable is necessary. Making it optional is an attempt not to be too heavy handed. I am grateful for the noble Lord's support for the judicial authorisation procedure.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, asked whether this draconian process, as he described it, although it is very common, was satisfied by having a justice of the peace or whether a more senior judge should be required. We have looked at existing legislation on this point. The existing legislation--for example, the Chemical Weapons Act and the Landmines Act--
The noble Lord, Lord Mackay, asked about access by agency inspectors under Clause 5. Here again it is true that agency inspectors have access without a warrant, but there are other similar provisions in the Chemical Weapons Act and the Landmines Act. They do not require warrants for the exercise of entry powers which are specifically required under the underlying treaty or convention or protocol, which are very limited and subject to conditions clearly set out, as in this case, in the additional protocol.
The noble Lord asked whether Clause 8 was repeating Clause 4. I do not think it is, but it probably requires a more complicated answer than I am able to give him from the Dispatch Box. If I may, I will write to him about it. He asked whether it should not be a convention that when an Act applied to Scotland it should say so. It is not the convention. The Bill says that the Act applies to Northern Ireland, although that may change, of course, after devolution later this week.
The noble Lord asked about the commencement provisions. These do indeed require another statutory instrument, but we will be able to bring the powers and duties under the Bill into force only when the additional protocol itself is ready to come into force. This will be when all members of the European Union are ready for that. We do not know when that will be and therefore we have to seek an order rather than fixing a date now for that purpose.
The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, on a similar point, agreed with the need for early ratification. I think we are ahead of the game, if I may put it like that, particularly if the Bill passes speedily through Parliament. We are ahead of most of our European colleagues. Some very small countries, as I mentioned--the Holy See, Monaco and some others such as New Zealand--have already ratified. Although 45 have signed only seven have ratified, and if we can pass this quickly I think we shall be gaining for ourselves some credit among the international community.
I hope I have answered the noble Lord's question about the justice of the peace and draconian powers. He asked me about the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the colonies. We have to make this provision, although we do not suspect that there is much in the way of nuclear activity in the Channel Islands. As he raised the point, I was interested to see that the word "colonies" appears in the Bill. I thought that we talked about "overseas territories" these days, but perhaps that is an intention rather than something which has got into legislation.
On a much more serious point, the noble Lord asked whether defence and nuclear weapons are entirely outside the scope of the Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to ensure that we, as a nuclear weapon power, do not do anything inadvertently which increases the possibility of non-nuclear weapon
Normally that will be in civilian establishments, but if defence establishments were to be carrying out such work in such a way for or in co-operation with other relevant non-nuclear states they would not be excluded from the Bill. The overriding provision of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty arrangement is that the five nuclear weapon states are recognised as having nuclear weapon capability and therefore they do not have to declare it. However, they have to co-operate as far as they can in ensuring that it does not spread. That is the reason for the definitions that we use in the Bill.
I think I can now answer more fully the question of potential overlap between Clauses 4 and 8. This may save us time in the future even if it takes a minute or two now. Clause 4 relates to the powers of entry to premises in order to obtain the information that the United Kingdom is required to provide to the IAEA under the additional protocol; for example, information on all research and development on nuclear-related activities. Clause 8 relates to the powers of entry to premises in order to obtain evidence that an offence under the Act has been committed: for example, evidence that the Secretary of State is required to provide to the IAEA has been destroyed or tampered with. That is the difference between the two.
The noble Lord, Lord Gray of Contin, asked about the inspector's powers under Clause 5. I think I can reassure him that, first of all, this is similar to legislation elsewhere. Secondly, the information which the IAEA inspectors or the Euratom inspectors are looking for is closely defined. He also asked about contract terms in commercially confidential documents. Yes indeed, documents are an essential part of what may be necessary, as evidence, to see that no breach of the Act is in course.
I have here the words "correction to previous answer" and so I will now give it. The presence of a constable may be requested by an applicant for a warrant, or the JP may consider that there ought to be a constable there to ensure order. I do not think that is much of a correction. It is very similar to the answer that I have just given.
The rest of the speech by the noble Lord, Lord Gray of Contin, was a perfectly legitimate defence of nuclear energy. I do not want to enter into a subject which is not fundamentally the subject matter of this Bill. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace, is quite right: it is not that we are anti nuclear energy, and certainly not that this Bill contains any supposition against nuclear energy, but it is that the technology may to a significant extent overlap with that necessary for the development of nuclear weapons, and to that extent we have to cover civil nuclear energy establishments in the provisions of this Bill.
Again, I am grateful to your Lordships for the attention that you have paid to the wording of the Bill. I hope that I have given the answers which are necessary to enable us to proceed without a Committee stage, and I beg to move.