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(a) an application is made for a direction under this section ; and
(b) the person whose paternity is in issue is under the age of eighteen when the application is made,
the application shall specify who is to carry out the tests. (1B) In the case of a direction made on an application to which subsection (1A) applies the court shall--
(a) specify, as the person who is to carry out the tests, the person specified in the application ; or
(b) where the court considers that it would be inappropriate to specify that person (whether because to specify him would be incompatible with any provision made by or under regulations made under section 22 of this Act or for any other reason), decline to give the direction applied for.".'.-- [The Solicitor-General.] Brought up, read the First and Second time, and added to the Bill.
.--(1) Rules made under section 144 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 may make provision for a magistrates' court to sit in private in proceedings in which any powers under this Act may be exercised by the court with respect to any child.
(2) No person shall publish any material which is intended, or likely, to identify--
(a) any child as being involved in any proceedings before a magistrates' court in which any power under this Act may be exercised by the court with respect to that or any other child ; or (
(b) an address or school as being that of a child involved in any such proceedings.
Column 639(3) In any proceedings for an offence under this section it shall be a defence for the accused to prove that he did not know, and had no reason to suspect, that the published material was intended, or likely, to identify the child.
(4) The court or the Secretary of State may, if satisfied that the welfare of the child requires it, by order to dispense with the requirements of subsection (2) to such extent as may be specified in the order.
(5) For the purposes of this section--
(a) broadcast by radio, television or cable television ; or (
(b) cause to be published ; and
"material" includes any picture or representation.
(6) Any person who contravenes this section shall be guilty of an offence and liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding level 4 on the standard scale.
(7) Subsection (1) is without prejudice to--
(a) the generality of the rule making power in section 144 of the Act of 1980 ; or
(b) any other power of a magistrates' court to sit in private. (8) Section 71 of the Act of 1980 (newspaper reports of certain proceedings) shall apply in relation to any proceedings to which this section applies subject to the provisions of this section.'.-- [The Solicitor General]
Brought up, and read the First time.
The Solicitor-General : This new clause is concerned only with cases heard before magistrates and deals with the matter of privacy. The ability of magistrates courts to sit in private and restrictions on publication of material about children involved in civil cases differ, at present, between courts and according to the type of case being heard. For example, most cases affecting the custody of or access to children which are heard in magistrates courts are heard under the Guardianship of Minors Act 1971 in the domestic court. Rules of court may specify when hearings under this Act can be held in private, and rules currently provide that the court shall hear applications in private where it considers this is expedient in the interests of the minor. But there is no similar power in relation to care cases.
The Bill repeals the 1971 Act and new clause 18, which we have already debated, removes jurisdiction to hear care cases from the juvenile court and transfers it to the domestic court. The net effect of all this, if we do not provide otherwise, is to remove protection already afforded today by the law to children involved in care, custody and access cases. In addition, the current hotch-potch of protection in these matters needs to be replaced by coherent and consistent provisions.
Amendment No. 310 adds another exception, to take account of new clause 28, which deals with privacy for children in certain proceedings. A court or the Secretary of State will have power by order, under subsection (4) of that clause, to lift the restrictions upon identifying a child involved in proceedings under the Bill. This is because it may be in the child's best interests, albeit only in rare cases, for facts to be fully published, rather than have rumour and speculation flourish. Such orders will have to be made quickly. It would be both unwieldy and inappropriate for them to be made under the statutory instrument procedure.
I commend the new clause to the House.
Mr. Michael Stern (Bristol, North-West) : I shall not detain the House long, but I wish to explore with my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor-General what this clause comprises because I think that it may go wider than he has described. He may be aware that I was in correspondence with my hon. and learned Friend the Minister for Health about a related matter some time ago. Would my hon. and learned Friend the Solicitor- General agree that under the proposed clause, with which I heartily agree, it would be possible for magistrates to order privacy when powers under the Bill were being considered when privacy was required not for the child but for another person connected with the case?
I am thinking of a case which occurred in my constituency in which privacy would have been necessary for the protection of the accused adult in the case. Does my hon. and learned Friend agree with me that, under the new clause, should magistrates so decide, there would be powers available to them to protect the adult? I am not necessarily asking my hon. and learned Friend to answer this query straight away, but I should be most grateful if he would write to me if he cannot give me an answer now.
The position will be dealt with by rules of court which will set out the circumstances under which the court can sit in private. Those rules of court have still to be formulated and my hon. Friend's point will be borne in mind when we draft them.
Question put and agreed to.
Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
New Clause 29
.--(1) In any proceedings in which a court is hearing an application for an order under Part IV or V, no person shall be excused from--
(a) giving evidence on any matter ; or
(b) answering any question put to him in the course of his giving evidence, on the ground that doing so might incriminate him or his spouse of an offence.
(2) A statement or admission made in such proceedings shall not be admissible in evidence against the person making it or his spouse in proceedings for an offence other than perjury.'.-- [The
Brought up, and read the First time.
This new clause deals with self-incrimination. It is important that courts hearing applications for care or supervision orders, or for emergency protection orders, should have the benefit of all the evidence available to them. Generally, a witness in proceedings enjoys a privilege against self- incrimination. Courts hearing the types of application outlined under parts IV and V of the Bill should not be deprived of potentially useful evidence, even on this ground. Therefore, the new clause removes that privilege in respect of applications under those parts of the Bill. In its place, it grants such a witness an indemnity so that his evidence in those proceedings cannot be relied upon in proceedings against himself or his spouse for any criminal offence other than perjury.
I commend the new clause to the House.
Question put and agreed to.
Column 641Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
. In the application to Scotland of this Part.
(a) "the court" means the sheriff ;
(b) "day care" means any form of care or of activity supervised by a responsible person provided for children during the day (whether or not it is provided on a regular basis) ;
(c) "education authority" has the same meaning as in the Education (Scotland) Act 1980 ;
(d) "local authority foster parent" means a foster parent with whom a child is placed by a local authority ;
(e) for references to a person having parental responsibility for a child there shall be substituted references to a person in whom parental rights and duties relating to the child are vested ; and (
(f) for references to fostering a child privately there shall be substituted references to maintaining a foster child within the meaning of the Foster Children (Scotland) Act 1984.'.-- [Mr. Mellor.]
Brought up, and read the First time.
Column 642might suggest that so keen am I on promoting the Solicitor-General that there might be a vacancy for the Secretary of State for Scotland in the not-too-distant-future and he might be seen as an applicant. My hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Garscadden (Mr. Dewar) would expect me to ask a question or two. We appreciate that the new clause applies to part X of the Bill, which deals with child minding and day care. It is rather comprehensive. It includes the sheriff courts, day care, education authorities, local authority foster parents, parental rights and references to fostering a child privately.
In Committee, even on issues such as these, which I accept cannot be argued to have a major impact on how we deal with these matters, voluntary organisations and local authorities had an opportunity to give us their views. I might be mistaken, but I have not had an opportunity to hear the views of any Scottish organisations. I am not aware of the views of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities. I am asking the Minister, not to give me an assurance that such views will be sought before tomorrow morning, or even before the Bill reaches another place, but that, before implementation, the Government, particularly the Secretary of State for Scotland, will bear in mind the views of such organisations.
Clause read a Second time, and added to the Bill.
Further consideration of the Bill adjourned. --[Mr. Kenneth Carlisle.]
Bill, as amended (in the Standing Committee), to be further considered tomorrow.
Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.-- [Mr. Kenneth Carlisle.]
Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North) : There is, quite properly, wide public concern about environmental issues, and the subject of this debate is a potentially serious matter that requires Government action.
One case highlights starkly the need for the law relating to the transport of cargoes to be tightened. In September last year, the ship Ardlough sank in the Irish sea, and much of its deadly cargo--a cocktail of dangerous substances and low-level radioactive waste carried in unlabelled containers --landed at various locations on the north-west coast. The authorities and emergency services had great difficulty dealing with the consequences of this incident for one crucial reason--they did not have sufficient information to work from.
As a result, the Association of Metropolitan Authorities conducted a detailed review of the procedures involved and, in August, recommended changes to the legal framework in six key areas. The first concerned blanket cover--the system which allows ships to move from one port to another without notifying the authorities other than at six-monthly intervals. The AMA suggests that cover should be limited to single cargoes such as oil tankers.
Secondly, the requirement for transport operators to give only 24 hours' notice of their intention to bring dangerous goods into ports should possibly be increased, but most certainly the time that applies at the moment should be properly enforced, because port authorities are frequently not given that type of notice. Thirdly, harbour masters should be required by clear regulation to give higher priority to safety rather than, as we often suspect is the case at the moment, to economic factors.
Fourthly, pilots should be required to accompany ships with dangerous cargoes into and out of ports. Such a deficiency, if I may so call it, may have been a factor in the recent Humber tanker collision. That cannot be proved as yet, but one can hope that the facts will be discovered.
Fifthly, all faces of containers that carry this kind of material should be clearly labelled with a durable label that could withstand up to three months in the sea.
Finally, the emergency planning authorities and local authorities should be given enough financial support to enable them to carry out proper planning and to make resources available to deal with such problems as and when they arise. The legislation covering that urgently needs to be reviewed and revised.
I should add in passing that this raises questions about the powers of emergency planning officers, which are too restricted for the demands placed on them. I hope that the Home Secretary--I recognise that this is a transport matter--will build on the comments in his speech of 5 September of this year to the Fire International conference. I am aware that the Department of Transport responded to the AMA's report in a letter dated 12 September 1989, but that response was inadequate and unhelpful. Time prevents me from commenting in too much detail on that response, but having read it I am at a loss to see how, for example, the incident I mentioned
Column 644earlier could have been eased by the response envisaged by the Department. Clearly, more needs to be done and a more intelligent response is needed.
The Government's general attitude to environmental matters is worrying. It is instanced by the late signing of the Basle convention on toxic waste-- the Government were one of the last Governments to sign it. Our present methods and procedures are wholly inadequate when set against acceptable modern safety standards. The Government's complacency stands in stark contrast with their political posture as the guardians of our green and pleasant land.
If the letter I referred to earlier is indicative, the Government's rhetoric is hollow, their proposals are thin or non-existent and their intentions are nothing more than a tendency to tawdry window-dressing. In many of these issues, particularly that of the transport of these goods by sea, the Government try to lock the stable door after the horse has bolted. Too many disasters are waiting to happen for this approach to be acceptable. More needs to be done. The AMA has good ideas and I hope that the Government will respond to them more positively than they have done do far. 11.32 pm
The Minister for Aviation and Shipping (Mr. Patrick McLoughlin) : I thank the hon. Member for Knowsley, North (Mr. Howarth) for giving me the opportunity of appearing at the Dispatch Box for the first time before a number of changes take place in the Chamber. I also thank him for giving me the chance to speak about this subject, which has been of some topical interest in recent years but which has not had the attention of the House for some time.
As one with both a background and constituency in Merseyside, the hon. Member is naturally concerned with ports and with the welfare of those that go down to the sea in ships. It is refreshing to be asked to respond on a topic that, while close to the hearts of many of us, stands a better chance of being treated in a dispassionate and non-partisan spirit, and on which, even in the short time afforded by an Adjournment debate, it is possible to get some meeting of minds. I shall be responding to individual points in a few moments, but first I should like to say a few words about the current framework for dealing with maritime carriage of dangerous goods and associated emergency planning, dealing with the emergency planning aspect first.
Contingency plans exist to deal with a spillage or loss of dangerous goods from a ship at sea. The Department's marine pollution control unit, which was set up in 1979 with specific responsibilities for contingency planning and for taking charge of operations to deal with pollution at sea, has access to expert advice on chemical and radioactive hazards and has under contract both a strike team of personnel experienced in handling dangerous cargoes and cargo transfer equipment.
When an accident happens to a vessel the unit would first try to ascertain the intentions of the owners or the salvors to contain pollution or the threat thereof. If necessary, the Secretary of State would exercise his powers of intervention if it became apparent that the owners or salvors were not taking all reasonable steps to avoid or combat pollution, or if they were not in a position to do so. These powers are statutory ones and derive from the
Column 645Prevention of Oil Pollution Act 1971 supplemented by the Merchant Shipping (Prevention of Pollution) (Intervention) Order 1980, which was passed by this Government. These powers are very wide. Where an accident has happened in or to a ship and pollution will or may be caused on a large scale in the United Kingdom or in United Kingdom territorial waters, the Secretary of State may give directions to owners, masters or salvors of ships requiring them to take, or refrain from taking, any action of any sort whatever. Moreover, if he feels that the powers to give directions are inadequate, the Secretary of State may himself take any action of any kind whatever, which can include taking control of the ship or even destroying it. In an incident threatening grave or imminent pollution we shall not hesitate to use those powers if need be. This was demonstrated in March of this year when a small Panamanian-registered,
Indonesian-owned ship, the Perintis, capsized and sank in international waters in the middle of the English channel, about 35 miles south-east of Brixham. The vessel had a quantity of toxic pesticides on board and the expert advice to the marine pollution control unit was that the chemicals posed a major pollution threat to the marine environment and to United Kingdom fishery interests in particular. The owner of the vessel was not intending to do anything about the chemicals, and accordingly the Secretary of State authorised the MPCU to take direct action to recover the drums of pesticide which were scattered over the sea bed when the vessel capsized. Later, 28 of the 32 drums of toxic chemicals were successfully recovered. Tests showed that they had a much lower rate of solubility in sea water than first feared and scientific advice was that a continued search for the remaining drums was not therefore justified.
The Government's response on that occasion shows that we are conscious of the environmental hazards posed by the loss of dangerous goods being transported by sea, and we are ready to take action where it is practicable to do so.
Turning briefly to the general question of transport of dangerous goods by sea, I am well aware of the increasing concern for the protection of the marine environment, which can be undertaken only with international co- operation. The promotion of safety of life at sea was a major factor in the setting up 30 years ago of the International Maritime Organisation as a United Nations specialised agency based in London, and very soon afterwards work was begun, based on the United Kingdom's own Blue Book, on codifying internationally accepted provisions on classification, packing, marking, labelling, stowage and segregation of packaged dangerous goods--work which took shape in the form of the international maritime dangerous goods code, or the IMDG code as it is more familiarly known. There has been similar activity in dealing with bulk carriage of chemicals, gases and solid bulk materials. In all this, successive United Kingdom Governments have played an active role. The IMO's 30th anniversary year, as it happens, coincides with the issue of a new edition of the IMDG code, which for the first time contains detailed provisions controlling the marking, identification, packing and stowage of cargoes known to be marine pollutants and reporting of incidents involving them. These amended provisions will
Column 646enable international adoption of annex III to the marine pollution convention, and the Department is preparing new regulations to implement the changed requirements nationally.
Although our plans for dealing with emergencies are tried and tested, I am keen to deal with potential problems by preventive action rather than by measures to handle the consequences of an accident.
Mr. George Howarth : May I welcome the Minister to the Dispatch Box for the first time? I am familiar with the authority that he has mentioned. Is he aware of the European Commission directive 89/C147/03 of 24 May? It places a requirement on member states to observe articles 5, 6, 7 and 8 of the directive which covers the ground that I spoke about and about which the Minister has also spoken.
As I was saying, there are detailed and complex internationally agreed rules governing the transport of dangerous goods by sea. One way to do that is to ensure that ships carrying dangerous goods meet the international standards applicable to them. Tankers carrying chemicals in bulk and gas carriers are already singled out by surveyors in the port state control inspections.
Ministers meeting next March for the third international conference on the protection of the North sea will be considering how the present arrangements for ship inspection can be extended to cover all equipment and the operational requirements required by current international conventions in respect of pollution prevention and safety. Under these measures, ships carrying certain dangerous goods in packaged form will be given special consideration under port state control procedures.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will join me in congratulating the marine pollution control unit on its effective and fast response in averting what could have been a nasty and serious environmental accident following the recent collision in the Humber. The quick response of the unit and the Department averted such a disaster. Oil spillage is covered under international liability and international insurance. The quick and effective way in which we responded to the incident in the Humber demonstrated at first hand the way in which the Department and the Government are set up to meet the challenges presented by such accidents.
The hon. Gentleman spoke about emergency planning by local authorities. Of course, that is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department. I understand that there is a framework in existence which allows expenditure on civil emergency planning in a variety of ways. Apart from these provisions, my right hon. Friend has announced that he intends to appoint a civil emergencies adviser who will have oversight of civil emergency planning in peacetime.
The regulations about dangerous substances in harbour areas require the harbour authorities to prepare an effective emergency plan for dealing with emergencies that affect or could affect dangerous substances in their areas. In terms of the identification of which goods on board are dangerous and where they are stowed, the master is obliged to prepare a dangerous goods manifest or stowage plan from the information provided on the various
Column 647dangerous goods declarations that he is given. That list or plan must indicate the name of each of the dangerous goods carried and show where each is stowed in the ship.
When I was in Southampton a few weeks ago I was able to see the way in which a ship's master carefully monitors and clearly identifies where dangerous or suspect cargo is loaded, as he is required to do by the various regulations. That enables easy access to the goods and such goods are not allowed to be placed in the main hold of the ship. In addition, packages, vehicles and freight containers are required to have hazard labels or placards so that they can easily be picked out by an inspector.
Column 648I am sure that we shall return to this topic. I have already spoken about the EC order. I thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution and for the stimulating and educational debate. The hon. Member has done us all a service by his choice of subject. I know that this is not the last time that we shall hear about maritime safety. This debate has been a useful and constructive start.
Question put and agreed to.
Adjourned accordingly at sixteen minutes to Twelve o'clock.
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