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Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I do not hear people say that the usual channels do not work. Obviously there will have to be discussion there so that there can be debate before the referendums take place. I
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do not agree with the noble Lord's assessment that there is a hobbling of the opportunity for debate generally. In the White Paper, Your Region, Your Choice, the Government made clear the way in which they wish to address these matters. I am sure that there will be ample opportunities for thorough debate on what I think we all agree are important issues.
Lord Elton: My Lords, does the Minister recall the question asked by my noble friend Lord Renton; namely, what will these assemblies cost the people who are represented by them? What calculations have the Government made of that?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I do not have costings that I can provide today to your Lordships' House. I am happy to go away and see what figures exist. We have made plain our intention in this policy area. We spelt it out very clearly in the White Paper. In the end it is for the people to make the choice, and that is as it should be.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I rather thought that the noble Lord was quite excited by them. Perhaps he can help us with this. We have been undertaking an information campaign over the past year or so, and I understand that there has been a very interested response. People are participating in public meetings and gatherings to discuss what might happen as a result of successful referendums. I am sure that any words the noble Lord can say to assist in that process will be gratefully received.
Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, if there is concern about the time available to address this legislation, will my noble friend convey to the usual channels that this House would be willing to meet exceptionally in the mornings to do that?
Lord Renton of Mount Harry: My Lords, what will be the difference in powers between those regional assemblies that are elected and those that are not elected, such as in the south-east of England where I assume they will continue to exist? What powers will the non-elected regional assemblies continue to have?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the non-elected regional assemblies will no doubt continue as they are. The elected regional assemblies will have a wide range of involvement in issues such as sustainable development,
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economic development, housing strategy, jobs, skills, and planning. We have made clear our proposition on this and it is for the people to make a judgment.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, does the Minister agree with his noble friend Lord Rooker that the existence of regional assemblies that are not sustained by legislation and the ones that may be if the referendum is successful is an Orwellian state of affairs?
Baroness Hanham: My Lords, in the light of these exchanges, can the Minister confirm that he has no idea when the Bill will be published? Can he also confirm that it is not the usual channels which will decide when the Bill is published? It is the usual channels which, presumably, will be given an indication as to when the matter is to be debated. Can he further confirm that if there are to be regional referendums in the autumn there is now insufficient time for this House and the other place to consider in the normal processes of Parliament the Bill that is to be introduced?
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I simply do not agree with the noble Baroness. I made it plain that we intend to publish a draft Bill this July. It is for discussion whether there should be debate around the draft Bill in your Lordships' House. I hope that there is, but that is something for the usual channels to sort out. Following publication of the draft Bill there will be ample opportunity for scrutiny.
Whether the comments made by the Home Secretary about Mr Garry Mann on Mr Mann's return from Portugal and after his appearance before the Uxbridge magistrates were in accordance with government policy, and in particular the reported comment that the Home Secretary intended to "nail this individual".
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, the individual concerned was convicted in Portugal of participating in, and leading, a riot and was sentenced to two years' imprisonment. The Home Secretary's concern was, and remains, seeing that any individual who is convicted by a court does not escape his sentence because of a technicality. My right
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honourable friend the Home Secretary remains committed to co-operating with the Portuguese authorities.
Does she take the view that a senior judgeperhaps our reluctant Lord Chancellormight be prepared to explain to the Home Secretary the fallacy of the proposition that any publicity is better than none? He might also be prepared to continue by pointing out to the Home Secretary that his intemperate outburst seriously undermines the integrity of that great department of state, the Home Office.
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I regret to tell the noble and learned Lord that I did not have the advantage of reading Mr Simon Jenkins's article last week. Needless to say, I do not agree with the noble and learned Lord's assessment. As to any tutelage that the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor may see fit to give my right honourable friend the Home Secretary, I believe that may not be something that the Lord Chancellor would be likely to take up.
Lord McNally: My Lords, would the Minister agree that the interference of the Home Secretary, which is not an isolated case, detracts from the great success of the campaign against soccer hooliganism; and that if he generalised his comments and committed himself to nailing soccer hooligans between now and the World Cup in two years' time he would get general support?
Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I hear what the noble Lord says. I do not accept that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has interfered in any improper way. I accept that some would rather he had expressed himself more felicitously. For instance, if he had said, "We wish to uphold the rule of law and act in comity with our Portuguese colleagues and enforce their judgments", I should imagine that the whole House would say, "Hear, hear!". He chose more colloquial language.
Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, following the point made by the noble Lord, Lord McNally, has my noble friend seen the very welcome statement issued this morning by UEFA, the European football governing body, praising England fans for their behaviour during Euro 2004. It states:
"The English authorities have worked hard in the last 10 years. Their work is starting to bear fruit and they should be commended. There has been a change in the make-up of England fans and we need to keep out the hard element".
Is that not a great tribute to the work of my noble friend Lord Bassam of Brighton and his working group on football hooliganism, and a tribute to the good sense of this House and the other place in passing the Football Spectators Act 2000? It has made a real difference and for the first time one can be proud to be an England fan watching the team abroad.
Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts: My Lords, will the Minister comment on the view of Fair Trials Abroad that the recent comments of the Home Secretary in relation to Mr Mann will prejudice any chance of a fair retrial?
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