some default text...

Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the case for probation officers is not that they should have some form of identification--they are expected to have that when they

13 Jan 1997 : Column 19

visit prisons--but that they should be exempt from the normal searches of people entering prisons. There are two particular reasons for such searches. The first is to prevent illicit substances and perhaps weapons from entering prisons. It is no good us wringing our hands and saying that drugs and even weapons get into our prisons without ensuring that all visitors, whether professional or not, are subject to searches. The second is that we need to offer protection to such people, particularly probation officers, who might be intimidated and have pressure put upon them to take in illicit substances. If there were a known category of people who are exempt from such searches it is possible that prisoners will exploit that situation. It is as much for their protection as anything else that they should be subject to searches, which is the subject of their complaints to the Prison Service.

Lord Chalfont: My Lords, would the Minister think that I was mischievous if I were to suggest that the noble Earl might sometimes find difficulty in obtaining admission to prisons not because they have not recognised him but because they have?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I believe that it would be diplomatic of me not to comment on that.

Lord Annan: My Lords, when will it be necessary to shackle the noble Earl when he visits prisons, since it has been reported that a prisoner died in shackles?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I shall ignore the first part of that question. The second part relates to a serious issue which is being investigated. It is the subject of an inquiry and it is, of course, the subject of another Question.

The Earl of Longford: My Lords--

Noble Lords: Order! Time!

Lieutenancies Bill [H.L.]

3.43 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to consolidate certain enactments relating to the lieutenancies in Great Britain. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.-- (The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors Bill [H.L.]

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to consolidate the Nurses, Midwives and Health Visitors Act 1979 and the enactments amending it. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a first time.

13 Jan 1997 : Column 20

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.-- (The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

Geneva Conventions (Amendment) Bill [H.L.]

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to amend the Geneva Conventions Act 1957 to enable criminal proceedings to be taken in the United Kingdom for breach of Article 3 of the conventions. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.--(Lord Avebury.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

Examiner of Petitions for Private Bills

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That, pursuant to Private Business Standing Order 69, Miss Fiona Philippa Tudor be appointed an Examiner of Petitions for Private Bills in place of Mr. Brendan Patrick Keith.--(The Chairman of Committees.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Dangerous Dogs (Amendment) Bill [H.L.]

The Viscount of Falkland: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Moved, That the order of commitment be discharged.--(The Viscount of Falkland.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Merchant Shipping and Maritime Security Bill [H.L.]

3.45 p.m.

Report received.

Lord Clinton-Davis moved Amendment No. 1:


After Clause 1, insert the following new clause--

Marine environmental high risk areas

(".--(1) The Secretary of State may by regulations make such provision as appropriate in relation to--
(a) the identification of marine environmental high risk areas in the territorial seas and pollution zone of the United Kingdom; and
(b) the introduction of necessary measures to safeguard

13 Jan 1997 : Column 21


(i) maritime safety, and
(ii) the environment of marine environmental high risk areas from pollution by matter from ships, offshore installations or submarine pipelines,
whilst respecting rights of transit passage in international straits and freedom of navigation.
(2) In making the regulations and subsequent identification of marine environmental high risk areas, the Secretary of State shall inform the International Maritime Organisation of--
(a) the identity of such sites;
(b) the significance of such sites for recognised ecological, sociological or scientific reasons and the vulnerability to damage by shipping activities; and
(c) the necessary measures to safeguard safety and the environment.
(3) In making and applying any regulations under subsection (1), the Secretary of State shall publish by placing on a public register--
(a) the identity and boundaries of sites designated as marine environmental high risk areas;
(b) the ecological, scientific, environmental or sociological features of any marine environmental high risk area;
(c) the vulnerability of any marine environmental high risk area to pollution from shipping; and
(d) the measures taken to minimise the risk of harm to features defined in paragraph (b).
(4) It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State maintaining a register under this section--
(a) to secure that the register is available, at all reasonable times, for inspection by the public free of charge;
(b) to afford members of the public facilities for obtaining copies of the documents kept in the register, on the payment of reasonable charges;
(c) to supply members of the public with copies of the documents kept in the register, on payment of a reasonable charge for copying, not more than two months following receipt of written request for such documents; and
(d) to ensure that all documents arising under subsection (3)(a) to (d) are placed on the register within two weeks of their being brought into existence.
(5) It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State to make regulations under subsection (1) above within two years of the entering into force of this Act.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, as we indicated on Second Reading and in Committee, we very much welcome Recommendation 59 of the report of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Donaldson, and Clause 1 of the Bill, which goes towards the establishment of marine environmental high risk areas (MEHRAs)--one of a number of unhappy acronyms which appear in our political life today--related to a limited number of areas of peculiarly high sensitivity which are at risk from some shipping operations.

Important recommendations were made in the report as to how those ideas might be progressed. The report identified some examples of possible MEHRAs. Interestingly enough, they included Skomer, off Pembrokeshire, which is very close to the area where the "Sea Empress" was grounded. As yet, the Government have not indicated when and to what areas the enabling powers to permit the designation of MEHRAs are to be put in place. Perhaps the Minister can throw a little more light on that important issue.

13 Jan 1997 : Column 22

This debate enables the Government also to clarify their position in relation to certain obscurities which still appear to persist. In Committee the Minister asserted that,


    "if we wish to place restrictions on the movement of vessels, we can only do so through the IMO".--[Official Report, 25/11/96; col. CWH4.]
With respect, that does not appear to be wholly right. First, the committee's report specifically asserted that:


    "There is no need for the Government to wait for international agreement before promulgating MEHRAs in UK waters".
There is an apparent contradiction between the stance of the Minister and the point of view represented in the report. I am perfectly prepared to concede that I may be wrong about that. However, there appears to be an ambiguous position. Perhaps the Minister will comment upon it.

Restriction on the movement of ships is but one of a number of management measures which can be deployed within MEHRAs to reduce pollution risks from shipping. I shall not go through the whole list, but one can think in terms of improved aids for navigation; using tugs to escort laden tankers to terminals; oil spill contingency planning, and so forth. In my view, none of those would require the approval of the IMO, although in making progress in this and the whole international area it would be desirable to secure maximum consensus on the principle. The point is that the United Kingdom could act unilaterally over such areas in relation to its own seas.

We appreciate that similar thinking to that set out in Clause 1 is proceeding at European Union level. There, such areas are referred to by a different but not altogether happy acronym, MESA--a marine environmentally sensitive area.

I do not believe that the two things are absolutely identical--a MESA and a MEHRA. However, they are designed to serve a similar purpose. We believe, as does the Marine Conservation Society, that two years after this Bill has been enacted and comes into force, which would seem to represent an appropriate period to assess what progress has been made at European Union level, it would be right to require the Secretary of State to make the requisite regulations in order to designate MEHRAs. That is set out in subsection (5) of the proposed new clause.

If the European Union proposals were then agreed, it would follow in any event that the situation would have to be legislated upon by subordinate legislation. However, if not, the suggestion made in the Donaldson Report could be followed by finalising the relevant criteria. I believe that those are also under discussion by the Government and those MEHRAs to be put in place should be identified.

This amendment has widespread support from a large number of influential and important NGOs. I shall not mention them all but something like 15 have communicated with the Opposition on these matters.

Before I sit down, I wish to do what I should have done at the very beginning; that is, to thank the Minister for the great courtesy which he has extended to Members of this House during the Recess following

13 Jan 1997 : Column 23

points raised in Committee. It is characteristic of this Minister and I thank him. He has seen a number of your Lordships personally during the Recess, including myself. That is the right kind of stance for a Minister to take. He has clearly listened carefully and has acted, as the House will discover later, on a number of representations that were made. I am sure that other noble Lords will join with me in believing that that is an appropriate listening and acting stance on the part of the Minister. We thank him very much for doing that. I beg to move.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page