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Lord Bach: My Lords, I am sure that it is. However, because the noble Viscount, who has vast experience in the field, asks the question, I will give him a written answer, having confirmed what I have just said.
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, does the Minister accept that, although it is quite proper for us to pursue the sorts of issues that have been raised in questions today and in others, while our troops are involved at a moment of considerable danger, it behoves all of us to exercise restraint in our conversation? Will he further accept that what the troops most need at this time are our prayers and affection?
Lord Bach: My Lords, I thank the right reverend Prelate. I had to resist making a comment from the Dispatch Boxnot nearly as eloquently as the right reverend Prelate has done. The more we ask questions about this at present, I wonder who it gives succour to.
Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, in the light of well sourced reports that the United States military is denying the Iraqi army and its soldiers on active service the military equipment they need to undertake fully their security responsibilities, is it not an item that should be placed on the agenda in talks between the United States military and our military authorities?
Lord Bach: My Lords, I have not heard those reports. Indeed, I know that great efforts are being
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made here and in the United States to ensure that the new Iraqi army is properly equipped. If this is a real issue, then of course it should be on the agenda.
"(a) an event or situation which threatens serious damage to human welfare in a place in the United Kingdom,
(b) an event or situation which threatens serious damage to the environment of a place in the United Kingdom, or
(c) war, or terrorism, which seriously threatens the security of the United Kingdom."
The noble Lord said: My Lords, the logical starting point for a Bill that establishes a framework for planning for, and responding to, emergencies is a clear definition of "emergency". It is therefore absolutely crucial that we get that definition right.
In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville, whom I see in his place, sought clarification of whether the list of threats to security listed in Clause 1(4) was sufficiently exhaustive. The noble Lord is very wise in such matters, and we looked carefully again at the drafting of Clause 1(4). We thought that, unlike subsections (2) and (3) of Clause 1, subsection (4) could be read as non-exhaustive. I undertook to involve myself in correspondence on the matter; I have shared that with a number of noble Lords and have written to the noble Lord. We can see no reason why the list of threats to security should not be exhaustive. Accordingly, Amendment No. 1 modifies the drafting. That mirrors our amendment to Clause 19(4) in Committee. I hope that the noble Lord can follow that point.
In Committee, the noble Lord, Lord Lucas, asked why flooding was specifically mentioned as an event or situation that could threaten serious damage to the environment. Having looked at the issue, we agree with the noble Lord that it is not necessary to refer specifically to flooding, because one of the effects listed would be included elsewhere in the definition of "emergency"potential loss of life, damage to property, destruction of plant or animal life and so on. Amendment No. 4 removes the wording. Again, that mirrors an analogous amendment to Part 2, to which noble Lords have already agreed.
That does not mean that we are not asking local responders to prepare for flooding. As we all know, flooding can cause immense damage to property and threaten lives. It is clearly the sort of thing for which local responders should, and do, actively prepare. There is merely no need to refer specifically to it.
Noble Lords' interventions in Committee have aided us in improving significantly the definition of "emergency" in both parts of the Bill. There can be no doubt that the Bill will leave the House sharper, better
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focused and more transparent than it was when it arrived. I am grateful to noble Lords who made proposals and suggestions which are reflected in the amendments that I am moving today. I beg to move.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, I have some amendments tabled about the definition of the word "emergency" in Part 2. Depending on what the noble Lord says to those, I may come back to the matter at Third Reading.
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, perhaps I may ask the Minister to explain a little more. I am constantly puzzled by the use of the word "war", particularly in the first part of the Bill, which deals with local arrangements. I completely accept that a war will likely give rise to all sorts of emergencies.
We are talking about the meaning of an emergency. In my estimation, the one thing that war is not is of itself an emergency. Wars are almost invariably extremely well planned and can be seen coming from a considerable distance. Even the Falklands War, when it finally became a war, was a very well planned operation. Of course, within wars there is enormous scope for emergencies to take place.
The heading of this part of the Bill is, "Meaning of 'emergency'". We need to think seriously whether we think that war of itself is an emergency. I do not think that it is an emergency; it occurs after a great deal of thought and careful preparation.
Baroness Buscombe: My Lords, the Minister said that noble Lords agreed to similar amendments to Part 2 in Committee. But I assure the Minister that that does not entirely satisfy us with regard to the definition of the word "emergency". Therefore, perhaps the Minister may look forward to the debate that we will have on Amendment No. 58 and its group, to which my noble friend Lord Lucas has already referred.
Lord Garden: My Lords, I welcome the amendments. On the point of the word "war", the Government might consider making it an "act of war", which would line it up to events like terrorism. For the rest, the amendments are helpful.
Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, the remarks of mine to which the Minister made kind reference were uttered in September. That seems to me to be the first good argument for sitting in Septemberthat my remarks should have borne fruit from the Government in Novemberthat I have heard.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his comments. The noble Lord, Lord Garden, made an interesting point, which I shall pursue outside the Chamber. I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Buscombe, for her advance warning that we will have some more fun and games on a group
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that I do not think that I shall be dealing with, so I shall smile about that. My noble friend Lady Scotland will of course deal with it expertly.
The noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, said that war was not an emergency. I suppose that the noble Lord has a point, but obviously the effects of war and the conditions that it imposes on our society and communities at large can certainly be emergencies. I remember talking to my mother, who was in the fire service during the Second World War, about war. I am sure that she was a very brave lady. She just saw it as one succession of continuing emergencies. I do not think that she felt comfortable at any time, despite being extraordinarily well trained and well drilled. I am sure that she did a very good job, like many others.
The noble Lord is right. Wars can be well planned, but their outcomes are not as predictable as we would sometimes like. I am not sure that the noble Lord's point has any great further bearing on our debate today. We have tried to tidy up this part of the Bill. Having listened carefully, I think that we have succeeded in doing that.
The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, I refer to what the noble Lord, Lord Garden, said. His use of the phrase "act of war" takes very well into account what the noble Lord, Lord Bassam, and my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith said. It tidies it up and makes it clear. It is such a simple thing to bring back, if the Government feel that it is nice to do, at Third Reading.
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