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Baroness Thomas of Walliswood: My Lords, does the Minister agree that one of the most important services in preparing prisoners for their release, whether early or not, is the Probation Service? Does the Minister share the concern of many in that service that the fluctuations in expenditure on that service by prison governors have been as unpredictable and as difficult to deal with as those relating to the education of prisoners?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I believe that I touched on that question earlier when answering

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supplementary questions arising from the Question tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. I venture to repeat that the Home Secretary has in hand a review of the relationship between the Prison Service and the Probation Service, because we believe that both work towards a common purpose. Co-operation between the Probation Service and the Prison Service on a fuller and more integrated basis should be seriously considered.

The Earl of Longford: My Lords, does the Minister realise that what he has said will cause enormous pain to everyone involved in education, both in prisons and out of them? Does he also realise that this matter will be pursued relentlessly until we get a better Answer?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I accept the latter proposition--that the matter will be pursued relentlessly. Indeed, we welcome that. Any question relating to prison resources is respectfully answered. However, I do not believe that what the Home Secretary is doing in a multi-faceted attack on the problems of crime and criminals causes pain except to those criminals who may be adversely affected by it.

The Coal Industry

3.24 p.m.

Lord Ezra asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is their policy for the future of the coal industry.

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis): My Lords, the Government's objective is to have secure, diverse and environmentally sustainable supplies of energy at competitive prices. Coal has a part to play in meeting that objective. Since taking office, we have taken several steps to ensure a fairer competitive market for coal.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer, but is he aware of the consistent reports that up to eight of the remaining 24 deep mines in this country are likely to be closed within the next few months, leading to 5,000 redundancies? If those reports are correct, what will the Government do about it? Furthermore, although the noble Lord has referred to the role which the Government would like coal to play in their energy policy, no announcement has been made of the details of that policy or of how coal can play that role if the rate of closures to which I referred earlier proceeds apace.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, as a result of the privatisation legislation, the Government's role is very limited. My honourable friend the Minister of State who deals with these matters, Mr. John Battle, has been engaged in constant discussions with representatives of both sides of the industry. The noble Lord suggests that we have done very little, but I remind him that we have already taken action to challenge unfair subsidies in Europe--a rather important matter; we have set up a review of the pool to ensure that coal is not priced out of

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the market; we have challenged gas contracts to ensure that the markets are not unfairly weighted against coal; we have had the fossil fuel levy to ensure that unfairly supported French nuclear power does not have too unfair an advantage, and we have challenged the advantage gained by the nuclear industry. We are seeking a level playing field. My honourable friend has therefore achieved a not inconsiderable record in only six-and-a-half months. I am aware of the difficulties confronting the industry, but perhaps I may add that it is for the main company concerned to sort out such problems.

Lord Hardy of Wath: My Lords, does my noble friend accept that we welcome the initiatives that the Government have taken with regard to unfair subsidies and unfair competition, particularly from Germany and Spain, but can he tell us what response there has been from the Commission and the national governments concerned? Is my noble friend aware that this country is developing a reliance upon future supplies of gas from parts of the world which cannot, and will not, be described as stable and that the case for coal still remains inadequately answered?

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, formal complaints have been lodged over this matter. Indeed, the previous government failed to do that although the problems affecting coal loomed very large during their period in office. These matters are being investigated by the Commission, but such things take time. We have had very little time to deal with these matters but we shall continue to be alert to unfair subsidies. We are very much aware of the other matter to which my noble friend referred, but it leads to a much wider question which I do not propose to pursue at this stage. I am, however, fully aware of my noble friend's continuing interest in the coal industry.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, will the Deputy Prime Minister tell the Kyoto Conference that it is a priority of Her Majesty's Government to save the United Kingdom's deep-mined coal industry?

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, it comes ill from--

Noble Lords: Answer!

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I shall answer. It comes ill from the noble and learned Lord to question something to which his own government, through the right honourable John Gummer, were very much devoted. There seems some inconsistency there--not surprisingly.

With regard to our position at that conference, I have made it clear, as have the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, that our intention is to achieve a proper balance. We have to take account of the dangers affecting the world's environment. It would be a complete abdication of responsibility if we failed to do

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that. The balance that has to be achieved is how we can best advance the interests of the coal industry within the framework that I have announced this afternoon.

Lord Dormand of Easington: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that as recently as 22nd October I was told in answer to a parliamentary Question that coal use would remain significant in the future? Does my noble friend agree that that means there must be a United Kingdom coal industry, if only for security of supply? The question of subsidies has been mentioned on two or three occasions. Is my noble friend aware that Germany and Spain have no intention whatever of obeying the European Union on this matter? Therefore, is it not quite feasible and recognisable that we in this country should take the same view, at least for a period?

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, I do not believe that the conclusion drawn by my noble friend, who has taken a very keen interest in the coal industry for many years, is correct. It is our intention to attack the unfair subsidies in those other countries, and we have taken action in that regard. We shall press the Commission vigorously on the matter. Referring to subsidies to RJB in particular, that company is extremely well endowed and is hardly an ailing concern. The company has made considerable profits over the past two years in particular and has paid its directors vast emoluments. I believe that it should look to its shareholders rather than the taxpayer to take some part in all this.

Royal Assent

3.32 p.m.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Irvine of Lairg): My Lords, I have to notify the House, in accordance with the Royal Assent Act 1967, that the Queen has signified her Royal Assent to the following Acts:

Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act,

Local Government (Contracts) Act,

Plant Varieties Act.


Lord Carter: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m. my noble friend Lord Williams of Mostyn will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is to be made in another place on the youth justice White Paper. This will be followed by my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey who will, again with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement on the year 2000 date change problem.

It may be for the convenience of the House if I also inform your Lordships that, subject to the progress of business, the House will rise for the Christmas Recess on Thursday 18th December. The House will sit at 11 a.m. on that day. The House will return on Monday 12th January.

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Greater London Authority

(Referendum) Bill

Brought from the Commons; read a first time, and to be printed.

Human Rights Bill [H.L.]

3.34 p.m.

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

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

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Lord Henley moved Amendment No. 63:

After Clause 9, insert the following new clause--

Legal Aid

(" . Legal aid shall be available for proceedings under this Act.").

The noble Lord said: The Committee almost began to debate Amendment No. 63 last Monday. However, following the very wise intervention of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale, who suggested that that was not necessarily the right time to debate such important matters in a major constitutional Bill, it was agreed to defer consideration of this particular amendment until this afternoon. I am grateful that we have this opportunity so to do. I hope that without too much trouble we shall complete this Bill today and get through the remaining amendments. Certainly, we on these Benches will give every possible assistance to achieve just that.

I have tabled this amendment purely as a probing amendment in order to put to the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor a number of questions relating to legal aid and the Human Rights Bill. I detailed some of those questions when the noble and learned Lord was putting his wig back on as we were discussing the suggestion of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Simon of Glaisdale. I repeat them now. Perhaps the noble and learned Lord will tell us a little more about what he said in his speech in Cardiff. Bearing in mind that that speech was made in Cardiff, I should be grateful to hear more in this Committee. Can he also say a little more about the separate fund amounting to £4.5 million that he proposes to establish for human rights issues? Will that apply only to England--which I understand is as far as his writ runs on legal aid--or will it also apply to Scotland, or will there be a separate fund for Scotland?

Can the noble and learned Lord say something more about the Green Paper? I have asked about Scotland. Can he inform the Committee about the arrangements for criminal actions as opposed to civil proceedings? I imagine that different arrangements will have to be made. As to the Green Paper and its timing, since I first asked these questions on Monday I notice that the noble

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and learned Lord has tabled a Motion for Tuesday, 9th December to take note of the proposals of Her Majesty's Government for the reform of civil justice and legal aid. I presume that he will prefer to address a number of the issues which I have raised then. I also presume that that means the Green Paper will come out some time between now and 9th December. There would be little point in having a debate without the Green Paper. In the meantime, can the noble and learned Lord expand a little on the legal aid issues that I have addressed in terms of how they relate to the Human Rights Bill? I beg to move.

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