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Baroness Faithfull: My Lords, does the Minister agree that we should recognise good work when good work is done? I refer in particular to the West case. According to the Bridge report, a policeman on the beat knew the family, knew friends in the neighbourhood and heard what children were saying. That led him to the house in Cromwell Road. He later pursued the matter to such an extent that inquiries were made and the present case was brought to court.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on any particular act of a personal nature. There is scope within the police forces for the chief constable, or the commissioner of police in the Metropolitan Police, to recognise commendable or brave service. There are other awards outside the police forces--the Queen's Gallantry Medal, the George Medal, the George Cross and a commendation for bravery, which includes bravery in the air.
Lord Mottistone: My Lords, as regards the Queen's awards as opposed to local awards, is it not the case that they are made extremely late because so much procedure has to be followed? In the case of the police, the law must first take its course before those who have been brave are so awarded, but by the time the award is made the whole matter has been forgotten. When there is a clear piece of great gallantry by a policeman, regardless of what happens to the criminal afterwards, the process should be speeded up and awards made quickly.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, that is certainly a point which could be taken into account when my right honourable friend looks at the way in which the system is working. However, it is worth noting that the highest awards are given sparingly for exceptional acts of bravery and that they are considered against strict criteria. So that it is not just Home Office officials who are involved, the original reference comes from the police force itself. It is considered by officials, and advice is taken from the inspectorate. It then goes to the Cabinet Office, moves on to the George Cross Committee and is finally considered by Her Majesty the Queen. That happens in the case of the highest awards.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I quite understand why the Minister did not wish to refer to a particular act of bravery in Gloucester. However, will the noble Baroness acknowledge--as I am informed--that the police officer concerned was a woman, although the person was referred to as "he" in the noble Lord's
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, my understanding is that these awards are given irrespective of rank. They are related entirely to the particular act of bravery. However, as regards the particular case that was brought to our attention, I suspect that that is more commendable service than an act of bravery.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, the Government receive all reports from the World Meteorological Organisation on the state of the ozone layer over Antarctica. Those reports indicate that, this year, the Antarctic "ozone hole" developed earlier than usual. However, in many other respects, the pattern of depletion has been similar to that of recent years. Some year-to-year variation is to be expected due to fluctuations in meteorological conditions.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend the Minister for his Answer. As it was the British Antarctic Survey which first observed and reported the depletion of the layer, are the British Government leading the quest for possible action--for example, at the international conference taking place this week? Is my noble friend aware of recent increases in skin afflictions reported in the extreme south of South America which are probably due to the reduction in protection from ultra-violet rays?
Lord Lucas: Yes, my Lords; we are, and will be, pressing hard in Vienna for further tightening of the convention to lead, we hope, to a further speeding up in the reduction of halocarbons in the stratosphere. Even under the current levels of pollution, we recognise that there are significant increases in the less dangerous kinds of skin cancer, not only in southern regions but also in temperate regions.
Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: My Lords, does the Minister agree that what is, perhaps, potentially much more serious is the depletion of the ozone layer on the Northern Hemisphere where in the spring this year it was down by 20 per cent. or 30 per cent? The Northern Hemisphere is much more highly populated and there are far more of the world's agricultural crops grown in the region. Therefore, it is potentially much more
Lord Lucas: My Lords, I do not believe that many Australians will agree with the first part of the noble Baroness's question. However, as regards the second part, my noble friend Lord Ferrers is in India doing just that.
Lord Wyatt of Weeford: My Lords, is the Minister aware that for billions upon billions of years the ozone layer has been added to or depleted without it mattering a hoot? Is he further aware that the idea of a few crackpots who think they can fiddle about with it by not using refrigerators is absolutely insane?
Lord Lucas: My Lords, as the noble Lord quite correctly points out, nature is in no danger whatever from our messing about with the ozone layer: it is we who are in danger, and we are looking out for ourselves.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that there is some ambivalence and confusion in attitudes towards ozone because it is a poisonous and unwelcome gas when it is passed as part of exhaust fumes at ground level, but it is an essential, friendly shield when it is doing its job in its layer in the sky?
Lord Lucas: My Lords, I remember in my youth going to the coast to get the ozone. There seems to be a fashion in such matters. Personally I would prefer that it stayed up where it belongs and not come down here.
The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Fraser of Carmyllie): My Lords, the UK permanent representation in Brussels has asked the Commission for this information. Its response will be sent to the noble Lord. In the meantime, I refer the noble Lord to the group's report which lists the names and professional addresses of the academics. It is, of course, in the House Library. On the nationality of the academics, Professor Immenga is German, Professor Petersmann is Swiss, and Professor Jenny is French, and male.
Will the noble and learned Lord give an undertaking that approaches will be made to the Commission to stop this flood of paper nonsense from outside the Commission coming into the various countries when it is of no conceivable use to anyone and when all it does is to keep Commission officials--who, in this case, are unnamed and acting on their own account--fully occupied?
Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, I fear that the noble Lord is wrong. I believe that the approach which the report would wish to take is, first, that it should be bilateral, then pluralateral and, ultimately, multilateral. The noble Lord really ought to appreciate that the report was obtained from a number of academics and certain officials within the Commission. What the UK Government do, in accordance with other member states, is to support the view that there should be a working party to look at the issues raised by the report. Our concern--and this is why we wish to see a working party established--is not the terminology adopted in the report but the fact that, within it, there seems to be little or no empirical evidence for some of the problems in respect of which it seeks to put forward recommendations. What we wish to see identified are actual problems which need to be remedied. However, given the noble Lord's stance, I should have thought that the emphasis given in the first instance to the deepening of bilateral agreements was something that he would welcome.
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