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House of Lords

Friday, 10th October 2003.

The House met at eleven of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Worcester.

Female Genital Mutilation Bill

Baroness Rendell of Babergh: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.

Moved, That the order of commitment be discharged.—(Baroness Rendell of Babergh.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Bill

11.6 a.m.

Read a third time.

Lord Roper: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill do now pass.

Moved, That the Bill do now pass.—(Lord Roper.)

Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, I stumbled across this Bill by accident, when it came to its Second Reading a week or two ago. Having come down to see what the Bill was about, I became concerned on two points. They may be thought quibbles by some, but they are not quibbles to me.

First, in the speech given by the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, on Second Reading, which I actually missed, although I read it in Hansard, he listed a considerable number of items that had been looted from the museum in Baghdad. However, the Bill does not really deal with museums; it deals with other monuments. That worried me a little bit, as museums are a very likely place in which to look for objects of the sort with which the Bill is mainly concerned.

Normally, I would have tabled amendments that we could have discussed in Committee, thereby clearing the whole thing up and perhaps satisfying me that I was mistaken—which is sometimes likely. However, on Second Reading, my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey reminded us that the Bill was faced with a very short timetable, and that to table amendments that changed the Bill might well have the effect of killing it. I did not want that to happen, because the Bill, despite my misgivings, is worthy and should pass in the fullness of time.

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That was my first quibble. My second quibble is one close to my heart. It refers to the definition of objects in the Bill, which reads:

    "'Cultural object' means an object of historical, architectural or archaeological interest".

That form of words has been used for a long time in Bills of this nature. However, as the House will be well aware, I have a longstanding interest in engineering. Oddly enough—

Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, would the noble Lord mind if I intervened briefly on behalf of Her Majesty's Opposition? We actually had a very good debate on all the issues at Second Reading. A number of noble Lords spoke and a number of issues were aired, to which I believe the Government responded fully. That is why no noble Lords have tabled amendments. I wonder if that helps to satisfy the noble Lord.

Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, I am always delighted to be rebuked by the noble Baroness. It puts me in my place, but I shall continue none the less, as briefly as possible.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, my noble friend will recognise that the Bill has been thoroughly debated with the appropriate Minister present—my noble friend Lord McIntosh of Haringey. He replied to the debate when the issues were raised and put the government position, which is that we wish the Bill well. As the noble Baroness said, all the issues were discussed at the proper time, at Second Reading—and some of the points that my noble friend Lord Howie of Troon is putting forward are clearly Second Reading points. There was also a Committee stage.

We had no inkling that what is normally a straightforward Motion with a Private Member's Bill, that the Bill do now pass, would be the subject of a Second Reading debate, with quite fundamental issues re-emerging. Although we are always delighted to hear any contribution that my noble friend Lord Howie of Troon makes at any stage, he will recognise that there is no way in which the mover of the Bill, the Government or the Opposition intend to respond to any of his points at this ridiculously late stage.

Lord Howie of Troon: My Lords, I should like to get on with this and get it over and done with. It will not take long at all.

I wrote to my noble friend Lord McIntosh and explained my worries, and I am told that I shall receive a reply in due course, though not in time for this debate. I discussed the matter with my noble friend and with the noble Lord, Lord Redesdale, verbally, and informed my noble friend that I intended to raise the matter as briefly as possible, with the help of the House, at this stage of the Bill. I shall take only a minute, and patience is always a virtue.

I drew attention to the fact that there have been precedents for the definition, which noble Lords have no doubt forgotten because of all the interruptions. I

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reminded my noble friend that the definition had been changed in the British Waterways Act in the 1990s, in the Environment Act in the 1990s, and in the National Heritage Act, also in the 1990s. The changes were at my instigation, I am happy to say. My noble friend Lord McIntosh reminded me of something I had forgotten—that he had accepted an amendment from me that changed the definition in much later legislation.

The precedents which I just quoted define these objects as objects of historical, architectural, engineering or archaeological interest. All I hope to do today is to remind the department that that precedent should be followed in future, so that I will not be obliged to raise this issue again. It may not bore the House when I raise it, as I have been doing for about 15 years, but it certainly bores me.

On Question, Bill passed.

Wild Mammals (Protection) (Amendment) (No. 2) Bill [HL]

11.13 a.m.

Lord Donoughue: 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.—(Lord Donoughue.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.


Clause 1 [Amendment of Wild Mammals (Protection) Act 1996]:

Viscount Bledisloe moved Amendment No. 1:

    Page 1, leave out from beginning of line 18 to end of line 15 on page 2 and insert—

(1) There shall be an Authority, appointed in accordance with the provisions of Schedule I.
(2) The Authority may—
(a) recognise any body as the proper authority for making from time to time a code in respect of the normal and humane manner of conducting any activity in connection with wild mammals or one or more species of wild mammal;
(b) after proper consideration, approve a code made by any body so recognised as the proper code for regulating the conduct of the activity or part of the activity in respect of which that body was recognised.
(3) Where the Authority has approved any code it shall submit that code to the Secretary of State.
(4) Where the Secretary of State receives from the Authority any code he may either—
(a) make a regulation recognising that code, or
(b) write to the Authority setting out the reasons why he does not consider that code to be suitable for recognition.
(5) Any regulation recognising a code shall be made by statutory instrument and shall not be made unless a draft has been laid before, and approved by resolution of, each House of Parliament.

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(6) The Authority shall not exercise any of the powers conferred by this section, unless it is satisfied that it has, or that provision has been made to provide to it, sufficient monies to enable it to exercise such powers.
(7) At the end of section 3 of that Act, there shall be inserted—
"and "recognised code" means a code from time to time submitted by the Authority under section 2A(3) and recognised by the Secretary of State under section 2A(4) and (5) hereof."

The noble Viscount said: In moving Amendment No. 1, I shall speak also to Amendment No. 4. I shall also, if I may, come clean from the outset. This is an insider's amendment, put forward with the approval and encouragement of the noble Lord, Lord Donoughue. I have merely tried to assist him in drafting. He has therefore given me the task of moving and speaking to these amendments, to try to explain their technicalities.

The Bill renders it an offence to cause undue suffering to any wild mammal. However, it provides that it shall be a defence if the act is done,

    "in the normal and humane conduct of a lawful and customary activity".

There are, of course, many different wild mammals and very many different customary activities in relation to those. The Bill covers a scope vastly wider than, let us say, just hunting foxes or other animals. It covers rabbit catching and control, grey squirrel and rat control, minks, coypus, moles and so on and so forth.

An important feature of the Bill is that, for as many activities as possible, there should be a recognised code establishing what is in the normal and humane conduct of that activity, so that it is a defence to show that one acted in accordance with the relevant code. There being many activities, there will inevitably have to be a number of codes, and different bodies and people will be appropriate ones to draft each code. In its present form the Bill empowers the Secretary of State by statutory instrument to recognise or set out code-making bodies for each activity as he sees fit. However, once a body is so recognised, it then produces a code that, without more ado, determines what is a defence.

Three problems have emerged in relation to the Bill as it now stands. First, it may be difficult, and would I think be burdensome, to expect the Secretary of State to find and to establish a suitable code-making body for each activity. I note that the Minister nods at the suggestion that it would be a burden on his department.

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, your Lordships' Select Committee on Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform has forcefully pointed out that it was not acceptable for codes which are themselves to provide a defence to be subject to no parliamentary code. In its report the committee said:

    "Although the regulations"—

made by statutory instrument—

    "may recognise or establish approving bodies, they cannot provide for any direct control over the content of the codes, nor does the bill itself make any such provision. Accordingly, the effect of the delegation is that the content of a code which will determine whether or not a person has committed a criminal offence will be

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    subject to no Parliamentary control, even though the regulations dealing with the approving body will be subject to affirmative procedure. We consider this to be inappropriate delegation".

Thirdly, that committee also said that it disapproved as a concept of the Bill of giving the Secretary of State a delegated power to create tribunals to deal with cases under the Act.

I hope that Amendments Nos. 1 and 4 deal with all those points. First, they completely drop the tribunal proposal so that that difficulty goes. Secondly, they provide for an authority established and set out in Schedule 1, which appears in Amendment No. 4. Once that authority is established, it is for that authority and not for government to decide which is the appropriate body to draw up a particular code for any particular relevant activity or activities. If it relates to how rats should properly be killed, obviously it would be a different body from one that dealt with rabbit catching or a form of hunting. Once the authority has appointed an appropriate body in relation to a particular activity, that body then drafts a code and submits the code to the authority. The authority then decides whether it approves of the code. If it does, it submits it to the Secretary of State. If the Secretary of State likes the code, he lays before Parliament a statutory instrument to recognise the code. I hope that that entirely answers the point rightly raised by the committee on delegated legislation in that the code will have no effect unless and until it is approved by statutory instrument.

If, on the other hand, the Secretary of State is unhappy with the code, or with any part of it, he refers it back to the authority and explains his reasons for not being satisfied with it. Thus, under the Bill as it would be if amended, the code is subject to parliamentary control as required by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. The Secretary of State is relieved of all the tasks imposed upon him by the Bill as it stands, save that he has to appoint the chairman of the authority and decide whether the code should be approved.

There is a central authority selecting the various code-makers and vetting their codes. It is to be hoped that having a central authority vetting the codes will produce a degree of uniformity and of approach which will render both the presentation and the content of the codes user friendly. It is hoped that the central authority will follow a common layout pattern and wording in various codes.

I hope that that explains these amendments which I venture to suggest would be a considerable improvement to the Bill. I beg to move.

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