Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, the Minister states how successful outreach teams are. I have experience of them and agree with that. Is the noble Baroness aware that, no matter how good the outreach team is, there are people who will deliberately make it impossible for that team to contact them? In that circumstance, the outreach team cannot fulfil the task it sets out to do. Will the Mental Health Act review cover such an eventuality?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, the Mental Health Act review must look at several problem areas. Some people who can safely live within the community can do so only if they are complying with treatment. We must have back-up to ensure that the treatment is complied with or that there are alternatives if it is not. We must provide safety for patients and public alike. Whether through 24 hour nurse-beds, secure provision, additional treatment for those with severe personality disorder or outreach teams in the community, we wish to have a range of provisions to meet all the needs within the spectrum of mental health.

BBC World Service

3.30 p.m.

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): My Lords, the BBC World Service is drawing up its strategic plan for the next three years. The BBC is considering its priorities in the light of political, technological and commercial developments given the increase in World Service funding of on average 3.8 per cent. in each year over the 1998-99 level. We expect detailed proposals soon to be submitted to my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary.

Baroness David: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her Answer and welcome the news of the increased grant which will help to improve the service. Will she assure the House that changing to FM and the Internet, which is not available to millions of people in Russia, Eastern Europe and developing countries, will not take place at the expense of short wave services which are available in those countries? Will she ensure that those services will continue and that the staff who work for them will not be made redundant?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I draw my noble friend's attention to the article by the

21 Jan 1999 : Column 699

BBC Chief Executive in today's Independent which emphasises the BBC's commitment to the World Service as a global mission. It is difficult for me to give specific assurances about the plan without leaking the plan itself. It has not been finalised. It must be finalised to go to the BBC governors and then it will be submitted to my right honourable friend.

Perhaps I may suggest to my noble friend that once the plan has been finalised we arrange for the BBC Chief Executive to make a presentation to those of your Lordships who I know are extremely interested in the future of the World Service. That will give your Lordships the opportunity to look at the facts and not at some of the newspaper reports we have seen in the past few days and to be able to ask questions of the person who has drawn up the plan.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, the House will be aware that throughout the world there is huge respect for the objectivity and quality of the World Service and that it is one of the great British institutions. Will the Minister therefore assure us that there will be no cuts in the Arabic and Russian services at this crucial juncture in world events, albeit that there may be some change in the proportion of news and entertainment? Secondly, will she assure us that the consultation to which she has referred will take place before final decisions are made on the three-year plan, give or take immediate short-term decisions?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I cannot give that assurance. I was trying to be helpful to the House by indicating that once the plan is finalised, having gone to the governors and to my right honourable friend, we would endeavour to explain what it entails. I hoped that that was a forthcoming offer from the Government because I know that your Lordships are most concerned about the situation.

I note the noble Baroness's comments about accuracy, impartiality and objectivity of the BBC World Service. It is a market leader and has almost twice the audience of Voice of America. However, we must wait to see what comes out of the three-year strategic plan. I understand the anxieties about specific language services. Those priorities change from time to time and at the moment I am not in a position to give such undertakings to the noble Baroness.

Lord Hussey of North Bradley: My Lords, I was concerned with the BBC for 10 tranquil years and therefore must declare an interest as I am in receipt of a modest pension from it. During those years I was able to discover and fully confirm in my mind what has been said about the great regard in which the World Service is held around the world. It is of great value to this country and to those countries which receive it.

May I suggest to the Minister that the two most important areas for the World Service are the Middle East and Eastern Europe? In those areas independent news services, either in the press or over the airwaves, are hard to find, which makes the World Service that

21 Jan 1999 : Column 700

much more valuable. Will the Minister therefore make certain that she has an opportunity to see the plan before it is finally agreed?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I hope that I have made clear that my right honourable friend will see the plan before it is finally agreed. I agree with the noble Lord about the great regard with which the BBC World Service is held throughout the world. The Government have great pride in the BBC World Service. I do not believe that there is any difference on either side of the House as to the regard in which the BBC World Service is held.

The noble Lord made specific points about the Middle East and Eastern Europe. Those issues are bound to be considered both by the BBC World Service itself in drawing up its plan, by the governors in considering that plan and by my right honourable friend. I point out to the noble Lord that the Macedonian service, for example, was opened up in 1996 and that we have seen further openings in Albania and in the Croat and Serbia services. I hope that the noble Lord is reassured about the efforts going into that part of the world.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I am sure that the whole House agrees that the BBC World Service is acknowledged as the finest service in the world. What provisions are there for the World Service to be able to continue broadcasting effectively to crisis areas of the world, in particular the Middle East?

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, the BBC World Service has increased its language services to some parts of the world which might be said to be in crisis at particular times. Under the CSR, which was published last year, the BBC is also going ahead with the new, much-needed transmitter in Oman. I hope that that will improve transmissions around that part of the world which could be said at times to be in crisis.

Pollution Prevention and Control Bill [H.L.]

3.37 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That it be an instruction to the Committee of the Whole House to whom the Pollution Prevention and Control Bill [H.L.] has been committed that they consider the Bill in the following order:

Clause 1, Schedule 1, Clauses 2 and 3, Schedules 2 and 3, Clause 4.--(Lord Whitty.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

21 Jan 1999 : Column 701

Access to Justice Bill [H.L.]

3.38 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.


Clause 7 [Services which may be funded]:

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): I remind the Committee that if Amendment No. 90 is agreed to, I cannot call Amendment No. 91.

Lord Simon of Glaisdale moved Amendment No. 90:

Page 5, line 12, leave out subsection (7).

The noble and learned Lord said: Amendment No. 90 seeks to leave out subsection (7) of Clause 7. The scheme of this part of the Bill is to set up a body called the legal services commission which will operate through two subordinate bodies, of which the relevant one is the community legal service. The community legal service funds various legal services apart from criminal proceedings. However, by subsection (5) of the clause, the commission may not fund any of the services specified in Schedule 2; and subsection (6) says that,

    "Regulations may amend that Schedule".
That is plainly a Henry VIII clause providing for legislation by decree and it is therefore subject properly to affirmative resolution at the very minimum. Subsection (7) however, with which the Committee is concerned, says,

    "The Lord Chancellor may give directions...requiring or authorising",
the funding of services in Schedule 2. That equally is a Henry VIII clause but, as I read the Bill, this time it is subject only to negative resolution.

My first question to my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor is: why is that subject only to negative resolution? My noble and learned friend has indicated that he will bring forward at Report stage provisions to rectify what some of us regard as constitutional enormities in this Bill. It may be that he intends to make that subsection subject to affirmative resolution.

The other question is probing. It would be helpful to know why my noble and learned friend requires that power. I hope it is not merely that it may come in useful at some time or another in circumstances which cannot now be foreseen. That is not the sort of power that we ought to give. I hope that my noble and learned friend will not use the words "flexible" or "flexibility" which are synonyms for the arrogation of executive powers.

21 Jan 1999 : Column 702

Why does my noble and learned friend, apart from flexibility and a liking to have odd powers in his pocket, want that power? What provisions does he feel may be made subject to the funding potentiality; in other words, taken out of the negative Schedule 2? I beg to move.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page