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Lord Henley: My Lords, the noble Baroness invites me to answer a question. It is not for me to answer questions; it is for the noble Baroness. However, she did not answer the questions that I put to her. What effect will it have on future contributions and on pensions? The markets would have continued to rise whatever the Government had done. The point is that the party opposite made a great £5 billion smash and grab raid on pensions. That will have a long-term effect on future pensions.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, the health, status and level of future pensions depend on the health, status and level of a company's investment, profits and future prosperity. That is what the Budget will ensure.

Baroness Lockwood: My Lords, do the Government have any plans to assist the poorest of our pensioners, given the fact that in the period 1979 to 1994 pensioners in the lowest quintile received an average increase of 28 per cent. while those in the top quintile received an average increase of 61 per cent.? Is anything to be done for the poorest group?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, my noble friend is right. Since 1979 the gap between the bottom fifth and top fifth of pensioners has more than doubled. Inequality has widened. The top 20 per cent. are more than £100 a week better off while the poorest 20 per cent. are only £15 a week better off. That gap has grown as a result of the extent of occupational pensions. Unfortunately, only half of our workforce is currently covered by occupational pensions. It is therefore important that the future prosperity of our poorest pensioners is built on a decent second pension. That is why we are discussing with the pensions review our proposals for a citizenship pension and a stakeholder pension. All pensioners, not only those in occupational schemes, may then look forward to a prosperous old age. I hope that we have the support of all wings of the House in that endeavour.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, is the Minister aware--and I am sure that she is--that this subject has been discussed ad nauseam in countries throughout the world and that she has an extremely competent Minister in Mr. Frank Field, who has controversial views but nonetheless knows a great deal about it? It can be nothing but indecisiveness that is causing the Government to take so long to come forward with a policy. There have been years of discussion. As regards her earlier answers about the effect of the changes relating to tax rebates on ACT, she has the distinction of being the only person seriously involved in this subject who would believe a word of what she said about it.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I hope that we shall enjoy a further extension of the noble Lord's arguments in tomorrow's pensions debate, which

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provides the opportunity to discuss some of those issues at greater length. However, we are having a pensions review, which is taking several months. That is to be expected. It involves full consultation with the National Pensioners' Convention, as I am sure pensioners would wish. It is important that having, so to speak, crossed the Floor, we have access to the departmental information which was properly denied to us when we were in Opposition. It is too important a subject on which to come forward with a knee-jerk ideological reaction, as the noble Lord encourages us to do. We have seen too much of that in the past 18 years. Our policies will not be shaped in the same way.

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard): My Lords, I am sorry to interrupt at this stage but we have only four minutes in which to take the last Question. Perhaps we should move on, particularly since we have a debate on pensions tomorrow.

Defence Diversification

3.30 p.m.

Baroness Turner of Camden asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they anticipate announcing their plans for a defence diversification agency, as outlined in the Labour Party manifesto.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): My Lords, work is now in hand on developing proposals on diversification. We have said that we hope to publish a Green Paper in the autumn but I cannot at this stage give a definite date. It will be a consultative document setting out the Government's proposals and inviting the views of interested parties.

Baroness Turner of Camden: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that response. I should perhaps state my interest in this matter. I am a member of MSF, a union which has a large number of members working in the defence industries. I welcome diversification and what the Minister said, but does he not agree that it is extremely important that people working in the industry, many of whom are highly skilled, should know what the future holds for them and should know that as soon as possible?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I am much obliged to my noble friend for her constructive remarks and I agree 100 per cent. with what she said. The Green Paper will be an open consultative document which will invite comments from all interested parties, including--and very importantly--the trade unions. In addition, my honourable friend the Under-Secretary of State for Defence will address the TUC south-west region conference on defence diversification on 4th November.

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I hope that that demonstrates our commitment to as wide a consultation as possible with those involved in the industry.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, what pressure is the Minister experiencing from within the defence industry for such a diversification agency?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I am glad to say that the defence industry is co-operating fully with the DERA in developments which were initiated under our predecessors in that respect. There are several areas in which industry and the DERA are already co-operating: in the licensing of intellectual property rights; in extra-mural research contracts; in dual-use technology centres; and in the Pathfinder scheme. As far as I am aware, all developments have been greeted with considerable enthusiasm by industry. I should add that the situation has probably been transformed in recent years, in that these days research is largely civilian rather than military-led.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, will the Minister accept that the international market for armaments is going down and is likely to continue to go down? It would be deeply unfortunate if Britain were to compete even more sharply for a shrinking market. Therefore, the need for defence diversification becomes sharper and sharper.

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I certainly acknowledge what the noble Lord said with regard to the shrinking of defence markets throughout the world. I accept from him that the need for diversification is thereby enhanced. But it is a good thing in its own right.

Lord Carver: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that in the United States it has been shown that it is far better to let firms make up their own minds as to how they should diversify in that situation?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, I agree entirely with the noble and gallant Lord, but there is no element of compulsion whatever in that regard. Industry is involved only if industry wishes to be involved. I am sure that, as always, we can learn from examples on the other side of the Atlantic.

Lord Rea: My Lords, will my noble friend anticipate the review a little and say whether all the expenses of the diversification agency are to be met by the industry, or will any government money be forthcoming?

Lord Gilbert: My Lords, there is already government money forthcoming to support the DERA's activities and I see no change in that position. However, as a result of those developments I hope that it will be possible for additional funds to be available in the public purse.

Business of the House: Ministerial and other Salaries Bill

Lord Richard: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

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Moved, That Standing Order 44 (No two stages of a Bill to be taken on one day) be dispensed with on Thursday 16th October to enable the Ministerial and other Salaries Bill to be taken through its remaining stages that day.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Magistrates' Courts (Procedure) Bill [H.L.]

3.35 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.--(The Lord Chancellor.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.

The Lord Chancellor moved Amendment No. 1:

After Clause 2, insert the following new clause--

Power to issue warrant for arrest of accused after conviction where disqualification proposed

(".--(1) In subsection (1) of section 13 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980 (non-appearance of accused: issue of warrant) the words "if the information has been substantiated on oath" are hereby repealed.
(2) For subsection (3) of that section there is substituted--
"(3) A warrant for the arrest of any person who has attained the age of 18 shall not be issued under this section unless--
(a) the information has been substantiated on oath and the offence to which the warrant relates is punishable with imprisonment, or
(b) the court, having convicted the accused, proposes to impose a disqualification on him.
(3A) A warrant for the arrest of any person who has not attained the age of 18 shall not be issued under this section unless--
(a) the information has been substantiated on oath, or
(b) the court, having convicted the accused, proposes to impose a disqualification on him." ").

The noble and learned Lord said: This amendment follows a suggestion made during the Recess by several agencies in the criminal justice system to eliminate a further problem which arises frequently for magistrates' courts dealing with summary motoring offences. Although the courts may disqualify a defendant from driving in his absence following certain procedural steps, the Bench may wish to compel the defendant to attend for disqualification. The power for that is contained in Section 13 of the Magistrates' Courts Act 1980. It provides that:

    "The court may",
and I emphasise the following words,

    "if the information has been substantiated on oath, issue a warrant for his arrest".

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In cases where the defendant has been convicted following sworn oral evidence from witnesses, the information will have been substantiated on oath, so a warrant can be issued if wanted. But in practice these cases are increasingly decided on the basis of written statements under Section 9 of the Criminal Justice Act 1967. These are served on the defendant prior to trial. They are mostly admissible to the same extent as oral evidence. But obviously they do not satisfy the Section 13 requirement for the information to be substantiated on oath.

Courts must at present ensure the attendance of a police officer to substantiate the information either singly or in batches. That wastes police and court time. It is often meaningless because the officer in court will very probably have no personal knowledge of the facts behind the information. Similar difficulties arise where the defendant has pleaded guilty in person on a previous occasion and was convicted without consideration of the evidence, or where the court has accepted a written guilty plea under Section 12 of the Magistrates' Courts Act.

This amendment itself amends Section 13 of the Act so that, in the case of a convicted person, the court can issue a warrant for a disqualification hearing without the need to substantiate the information on oath. It does not affect the existing clauses of the Bill, but relates to the same procedural area which these address. The Justices' Clerks' Society and Magistrates' Association favour this change. I beg to move.

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