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Lord Bach: My Lords, as far as a debate is concerned, that will be a matter for the usual channels. I can, however, venture the opinion, probably shared by all Members of the House, that this House will haveas will another placeample opportunity to discuss these very significant matters at the right time. I agree with the noble Lord about the seriousness of the Statement. The noble Lord talks about debating in a more relaxed atmosphere. Given that the House is hearing a serious statement, it is in as relaxed an atmosphere as it can be. Certainly, we would need to spend longer than we are spending on the subject. I think that that is the noble Lord's point.
I shall go away and consider whether the answer I gave as to the medical position is adequate. If it is not, I shall write to the noble Lord, Lord Vivian, and place a copy of the letter in the Library of the House.
Lord Bach: My Lords, I shall answer the noble Lord in broad terms. The noble Lord can be assured that troops will arrive in good time in order to do what they have to do in the Gulf area. We hope that the fact they are being sent, along with armed forces from the United States, will show Saddam Hussein that on this occasion the United Nations means business. I can reassure the noble Lord that our troops will be there in good time for any conflict, if that is what happens.
Lord Bach: My Lords, I do not have any information in front of me concerning that matter. My noble friend will know that requests have been made by the United States Administration in the terms of his question. The answers are of course matters for the United Nations Administration. At present, I cannot say more than that.
Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, I address my questions to the last part of the Statement and to the diplomatic process. Can the noble Lord give the House an assurance that if Dr Blix and Mr ElBaradei report to the Security Council next week that they may require some more time for inspection, Her Majesty's Government will support that request?
Secondly, does the Minister agree that, while a lot of focus is placed on the second resolution of the United Nations, every bit as important is whether Dr Blix and Mr ElBaradei are, before any force is contemplated, able to state whether Saddam Hussein is in full compliance with the Security Council's resolutions? Will that judgment be one of the key factors as to whether the United Nations and the international community are able to address this matter as toughly as they ought to?
Lord Bach: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, who has, as the House knows, vast experience of these matters. I cannot give him explicitly the reassurance he seeks as to his first question. But I remind him of something that he will very well know, that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister has made it clear on more than one occasion that UNMOVIC must have as much time as it needs before we reach any decisive view on the matter. The Prime Minister has said that its report back to the Security Council next Monday, 27th January, is not in itself an event that will necessarily lead to the next action but is a passage in what is happening. I can go that far but no further on the matter.
Finally, arising from the Minister's reply to my noble friend about the Challenger 2 tanks, can he assure us that the work now being done will be completed before there is any question of any armoured vehicle moving in the desert that they will be desertised before they are deployedas he said the work, which was well in hand four months ago, is not yet complete?
As to the question about fixed-wing aircraft, the noble Lord will know that we have some aircraft in the region at present, which bravely enforce the no-fly zones. But, by their nature, aircraft can be deployed very quickly if they are required. The movements of enabling equipment, to which I referred, include some equipment and personnel, which would facilitate the deployment of additional aircraft in due course, if required. We do not see a need to deploy additional aircraft at present. But I give the assurance that we shall continue to inform the Houseas I hope we have on various occasions on these matterswhen such decisions are taken.
Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, my noble friend mentioned the no-fly zone. Can he confirm that over the past year or so the Iraqi anti-aircraft capacity has been directed rather aggressively towards those missions? Can he say whether in recent weeks the Iraqis have locked on to our aircraft to a lesser or smaller extent than in the past?
Lord Bach: My Lords, my noble friend understates the position. The Iraqis have behaved with great aggression during the period he talks about towards those operating in the no-fly zones. I remind the House that the reason for those missions is to protect the minorities living in those parts of Iraq who have been the subject of appalling treatment by Saddam Hussein in the past.
The noble Lord said: The purpose of the first amendment is to try to ensure that this crucial clause, around which the whole of the Bill revolves, is more meaningful and provides more guidance to the Lord Chancellor, the courts, justices of the peace and those who run the courts.
It is obviousmany have said itthat the Bill centralises power in the hands of the Lord Chancellor and the proposed national agency in a way that justice has never been centralised in this country. That being so, it is not just desirable but essential that the duty placed on the Lord Chancellor with regard to the running of the court system as a whole be as explicit as possible, without being too confining and inflexible. The Bill is littered with a panoply of powers and rights on the Lord Chancellor's behalf, so it is the more important that where there is an expression of his or her duty, it should be phrased in justiciable terms.
The insertion proposed by Amendment No. 1 is fairly modest, but takes the general duty considerably further by referring to fairness and promotion of the interests of justice. Those words are not mine, they are taken from the mission statement of the courts agency. What is good for the legislative goose is good for the gander. I should be disappointednay, suspiciousif such gentle words as fairness and promotion of the interests of justice should be in any way obnoxious to the Government. I beg to move.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: I shall speak to Amendments Nos. 2 and 4 in the name of my noble friend, which are grouped with the amendment that the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, has moved. He is absolutely right; I agree with his introduction of his
The Bill's drafting makes us believe that local justice is under threat from the Government. Although they wax lyrical about the importance of devolving government to the regions and localities, the Bill comprehensively centralises power in the hands of the Lord Chancellor. Amendment No. 2 challenges the Government to make it plain on the face of the Bill that they will consider the needs of rural as well as urban areas in fulfilling the duty in Clause 1. As the noble Lord explained, the clause places a statutory duty on the Lord Chancellor to ensure that there is an efficient and effective courts system and that he provides the right services for the courts. Our amendment adds necessary clarity to that duty.
It is all too easy for a Lord Chancellor keen on streamlining a centralised system in which he is carefully paring down the budget to withdraw services from some areas despite the cost and inconvenience that that may bring to the public who use the courts. The Committee may be aware from a Written Answer given in another place on 29th October that since 1997, 96 magistrates' courts have closed, while only 14 new ones have opened. From Appleby to Ripon, from Windermere to South Molton, in Devon, courts have closed the length and breadth of the country. The victims of crime, witnesses and defendants on bail all have to travel longer distances. As Lord Justice Auld pointed out on page 301 of his report:
Amendment No. 4 develops the theme explored by the noble Lord, Lord Phillips, but I shall address a specific issue about the report to be issued. Clause 1(4) states that the Lord Chancellor must publish an annual report on the business of the courts. That implies that he does not have to address what is provided in the final line of subsection (1), line 10, which includes in his duty that he should ensure,
I table the amendment simply to ask the Minister to put on the record an assurancewhich I hope that she can give with easethat the report will cover not only details of the business of the supreme court, county courts and magistrates' courts but of the Lord Chancellor's performance in providing appropriate services. That would involve a statement of what he considers to be appropriate services and an assessment of how closely his provision has matched the ideal during the period of the report. If she is able to give such an assurance, she may want to consider some redrafting of the clause.
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