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Lord Tanlaw: My Lords, I declare an interest as chairman of the All-Party Astronomy and Space Environment Group. Will we be allowed to discuss the Government's report on dark skies, which will, I believe, come out in the autumn? Will the Minister sayhe did not say it in his replythat there will be what I call "no-glow" areas on the outskirts of towns for amateur astronomers?
Any amateur astronomer who has seen, as I have, the moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn or the nearest nebula of Andromeda has a sense of wonder. That is being denied to young children and all amateur astronomers throughout the country. Towns such as Swindon have an undeflected incandescent glow of sodium that can be seen far out in outer space, outer space that people cannot see from ground level as a result.
The noble Lord is right. I am not in a position to promise debates, but there is a lot going on. The Government are consulting on some of the issues that I mentioned. We will announce the results of the consultation. Nevertheless, as I said, the Select Committee in another place is carrying out an inquiry to which my department and others will give evidence. I have no doubt that it will be debated.
We need positive solutions to the issue. As far as I am aware, only one country has legislation on light pollutionthe Czech Republic. There is a lot to do, as the recent satellite photographs show. There is no question about that.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, the answer is "Yes". I agree with the noble Lord. Although the light itself is not a planning issue, the siting of the installations sometimes is. We covered the issue in PPG 12, 23 and 17, planning policy guidance that local authorities are, by and large, required to follow on development plans, on planning and pollution control and on planning for open space sport and recreation.
The noble Lord is right: in order to light the ground, we do not have to light the sky. That applies to sports facilities, town centres or other spaces. At the same time, people want roads that are lit well enough to cut down accidents and places lit well enough to deter crime. We do not have to light the sky in order to do that.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, is the Minister aware that there was a time when the price of the electricity for lighting streets at night fell virtually to zero? There was a need to do something with the electricity generated at night, because the generating capacity was not sufficiently flexible and could not be shut down. Can the Minister assure the House that the Government are taking that issue into account in their consideration of the lighting problem? If electricity is generated, it must go somewhere, and it would be better if it went into something more useful than lighting the night sky.
Lord Rooker: My Lords, the issue that the noble Lord raises is not a problem today. As I said, the Government have made available £300 million in PFI credits to local authorities for this financial year to deal with street lighting, so that they can use more modern street lighting. That is over and above their revenue support money. There is a further £85 million for London street lighting.
When I was first elected to another place, a long time ago, the street lights and the television went off at ten o'clock at night. However, that was the result of a contentious industrial dispute, rather than an attempt to save energy.
Lord Ackner: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her Answer. Has she had the opportunity to consider in detail the devastating criticism made by the Lord Chief Justice and the Lords Justices who preside in the Court of Appeal Criminal Division, which is contained in a 22-page, 71-paragraph memo deposited in the Library, following the Lord Chief Justice's speech at Second Reading of the Criminal Justice Bill on Monday? Does she appreciate that it covers not only what has been known as the ministerial decrees in sentencingthe Blunkett revenge on the Convention on Human Rightsbut a whole variety of other matters, such as disclosure, expert evidence, bad character, hearsay evidence and trial without jury. Will the noble Baroness confirm that the Government will answer the points in that memorandum paragraph by paragraph and put the Government's response in the Library before the Committee stage in a week's time?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I had the advantage of hearing the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chief Justice during the Second Reading and had the privilege of responding to him. Secondly, the department has fully taken into account the issues contained in the memorandum to which the noble and learned Lord refers. Thirdly, all those points, made as part of the Second Reading speech of the Lord Chief Justice will be taken into account when we make our individual responses on the Bill clause by clause.
Lord Renton: My Lords, as the Government consider the future of the judiciary, will they ensure that the judiciary continues to make a major contribution to our debates on legal matters? That is an essential part of our democracy, and has been for generations. It must continue.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, of course I hear what the noble Lord says, but the original Question related to the relationship. I am no longer a Minister in the Lord Chancellor's Department, now renamed, so I no longer have primary responsibility in that regard. However, the future of the judiciary is certainly of enormous importance. I am sure that it will be quite safe in the hands of the Government.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, we are starting a debate that I am sure we shall have for quite some time in this House. Some will say "Yea" and some will say "Nay", but in due course your Lordships and Members in another place will decide.
Lord Mayhew of Twysden: My Lords, on the subject of a co-operative relationship between the judiciary and the Home Secretary, did we not valuably learn on Second Reading from the Lord Chief Justice that there is a drastic and, in the opinion of the judges, dangerous disparity between some of the sentencing provisions in the Bill and the practice direction that the Lord Chief Justice published only in May last year? Was not that practice direction submitted in draft by him to the Home Secretary and published with the Home Secretary's concurrence? Before the provisions were introduced at a late stage in another place, what "constructive dialogue"to use the noble Baroness's expressiontook place between the Government and the judiciary?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, the judiciary and the department have had an opportunity to speak on several occasions. The last discussion between our department and the Lord Chief Justice was when the Lord Chief Justice met my right honourable friend the Home Secretary on 11th June. I am pleased to say that I noted when the Lord Chief Justice gave his speech that he acknowledged that he and the Government begged to differ. This House, together with another place, will have to determine the framework that is proper to be contained in the Bill. It is a matter for Parliament to decide, and Parliament will do so.
Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, on the subject of the independence of the judiciary, can the Minister help me? Who speaks for the Government on that matter? Is it the Prime Minister, who tells us that the Government's policy is to enhance the independence of the judiciary, or is it the Home Secretary who tells us that the judiciary needs to be made more accountable and is highly critical of some of its recent judgments?
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