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Lord Hylton: My Lords, even when we considered the Bill—now an Act—affecting England and Wales, it was obscure to me why fur farming should be considered to be in any way more cruel than the farming of animals for other purposes. On those grounds—whatever the vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly—there may be a case for not insisting on complete uniformity throughout the United Kingdom.

Lord Monson: My Lords, I agree with my noble friend Lord Hylton to some extent, although not necessarily on the point about conformity. Like my noble friend, I queried and opposed the Bill relating to England and Wales, as it went through the House.

A vegan could support the order with a clear conscience. As I understand it, most vegans believe that it is wrong for man to kill or exploit animals for any purpose. I do not agree with that philosophy, but I respect it. I respect also the logical consistency of the vegan position. However, it beats me how any carnivore can support such an illiberal order. After all, it is a matter of total indifference to an animal being killed whether it is being killed for food, clothing, footwear, sport, medical research, cosmetic research or military research. All that is important, from the point of the view of the animal, is that death should be as painless and as quick as possible.

Obviously, neither my noble friend nor I will be able to budge the Government tonight. However, I must ask the noble and learned Lord the Lord Privy Seal whether the Northern Ireland Assembly—if and when it sits again—could restore the status quo, if it changed its mind and wished to do so. I presume that it could, but it would be good to have confirmation.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I will check that, although that question was not uppermost in my mind. I was sorry to see that my noble friend Lord Fitt was not in his place, when the noble Lord spoke of vegans. He would have wanted us to ask, "Are you a Roman Catholic vegan or a Protestant vegan?".

As the noble Lord, Lord Laird, said, the matter was fully debated and supported by everyone because of the amendment that the Ulster Unionists obtained. Notionally, the Assembly might be able to change its mind; practically, I doubt that it would wish to do so.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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Harbours (Northern Ireland) Order 2002

6.47 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 21st November be approved.

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, the order will confer functions on the Department for Regional Development in Northern Ireland in relation to the regulation of certain harbour authorities and for connected purposes. It is the final element in a package of measures to improve the accountability of the Northern Ireland trust ports and safeguard the public interest with regard to their commercial activities.

It is a short order with only seven articles. There are three main provisions. The first is a power to enable the department, if necessary, to issue directions to designated harbour authorities to safeguard the public interest. The second relates to the power of the department to obtain information. Thirdly, it will empower the department to issue codes of practice.

The order is short and seems entirely suitable. On that basis, I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 21st November be approved.—(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I thank the noble and learned Lord for bringing the order before us. I suppose that I ought to confess to some form of interest. I am the first of four generations not to have been on the board of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners.

That having been said, it is an important order, even if it may not seem so tonight. The trust ports—and, indeed, Larne, which is a privately owned port, not a trust port—are the lifeblood of Northern Ireland and have been for many years, starting with Belfast and its shipbuilding industry in Victorian days. Without going into history, I must say that the port of Belfast was set up many years ago by the Victorians for the benefit of the people of Belfast. There have been hiccups, but, when we look back, we see that, over the years, the harbour commissioners and the port have played a huge role in Northern Ireland's economic welfare and growth. That is not to belittle the leisure ports of Coleraine, Warrenpoint and, indeed, Londonderry. They are all historical but, for anyone who visits them, they are seriously busy, hard-working ports. They are particularly vital to industry in those areas.

The part of the order that I welcome is the provision which allows the department to ease the financial controls and certain constraints under which the ports have operated and opens up further these areas for public scrutiny. Overall, I welcome the order.

Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, I want to be more quizzical about the order. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, is correct in that there

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has been good stewardship by the commissioners. How possible is it for that to continue? I am particularly struck by paragraph 4, which states:

    "The department may give to a designated harbour authority directions of a general or specific nature as to the exercise by that authority of its functions".

That seems to suggest that the department can say what the authority does or does not do. In the explanatory memorandum there is a suggestion that:

    "It is not considered the proposed Bill will have any direct cost implications for any government department or other public or private body or individual".

It occurs to me that those who run harbours in Northern Ireland will want vessels to come to those harbours—no doubt, from England, Scotland and Wales. It has been my experience that vessels get bigger and bigger and they often have wagons, goods and so forth on them. It strikes me that a smaller harbour commissioner could take the view that the authority would like to progress, do well and make plans. Yet, the department may say that it does do not have the environment to cope with the wagons on new vessels coming into the ports. I wonder how that will marry together in terms of concerns that the Department of the Environment may have with the wishes of the harbour commissioners to do well and prosper. Indeed, one may reach a point where the harbour commissioners have planned for expansion and put forward facilities and so forth but that comes to a stop because there are no facilities for onward transmission of goods.

I should like to know how that will fit together. It seems that one could even reach a point where vessels are of such a size that if they are not able to enter a particular port, that may have some impact on the finances of many people, including employees. I should like to understand how this is meant to fit together.

Lord Laird: My Lords, I support the order which seeks to improve the public accountability of the trust port authorities in Northern Ireland. I particularly welcome the greater involvement of district councillors in the running of port authorities. In view of the fact that the Assembly is in suspension, the scope to widen the influence of local councillors is a positive development.

I am also pleased that the order will allow trust ports to compete on a commercial basis in the global market. Indeed, the order puts Northern Ireland ahead of Great Britain in that area and potentially gives the Province a rare commercial advantage. I commend the order to your Lordships.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am grateful for that support. I endorse the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Laird, regarding local involvement. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Shutt of Greetland, perhaps I can make it plain. The department does not envisage involving itself in port operational matters. I am happy to put on the record that it is intended as a reserve power which would be used, if necessary, to safeguard the public interest—perhaps, for instance, in

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relation to a land transaction relating to land which was under the control and management of the harbour authority. That is the only intention.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Company Directors Disqualification (Northern Ireland) Order 2002

6.55 p.m.

Lord Williams of Mostyn rose to move, That the draft order laid before the House on 25th November be approved.

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, this is another excellent order, but there is a word or two that I can further say on its behalf. The order seeks to amend and consolidate the law in Northern Ireland and to introduce provisions broadly in line with those in the rest of the United Kingdom.

The Insolvency Act 2000 is our base. Disqualification for unfitness, which is a critically important means of protecting the public from those who abuse limited liability, can, at present, be achieved only by court proceedings. The order introduces disqualification by consent as an alternative to court proceedings through the director giving an undertaking to the department. Therefore, it will be quicker and cheaper, and will avoid the use of lawyers. I beg to move.

Moved, That the draft order laid before the House on 25th November be approved.—(Lord Williams of Mostyn.)

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, I have no difficulty in agreeing to this order. During my time in business, it took far too long for this type of procedure to be taken with company directors who had defaulted. It should be quicker, faster and save money.

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