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Lord Jopling: My Lords, my noble friend raises an important matter. However, some local authorities, particularly the county councils in shire counties, already have responsibility for civil defence and for these matters. I deliberately did not make the amendment more specific because I thought that one could leave it to the Government to decide to which local authorities it would be most appropriate to issue an instruction to obtain this sort of equipment. That is why I put "other public bodies" into this part of the amendment as well. One has to leave the decision to the discretion of the Government. The Government do not have to do any of these things. I am not saying that they "shall" do them; I am saying that they "may" do them.
Lord Elton: My Lords, I have put my name to the amendment. However, my noble friend has been so thorough and convincing in what he said that there is
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little necessity to add to it. In his last interventionwhich was theoretically before he sat downhe touched on the point that I wish to make. Although governments hate prescriptive advice in legislation when they are faced with the unknown, this is permissive advice. It is a permissive provision. The amendment states:
Therefore, if the Minister is going to resist the amendment, he will have difficulty in doing so on that ground and, in view of everything else that my noble friend has said, on any other grounds as well.
Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, while I fully sympathise with and understand the motivation underlying the amendment, perhaps I may point out to the noble Lords who tabled it a problem in the terminology. The subject of radiology refers normally to a professional discipline practised by doctors who are concerned with the interpretation of x-ray images and other forms of imaging produced in the course of medical practice. Admittedly, the term has been used somewhat loosely, as for instance when the National Radiological Protection Board was established perhaps to consider looking at issues involving radioactive matter. However, paragraph (b) of the amendment, dealing with objects designed,
If this amendment is pursued, then the wording should certainly be "radioactive matter" which occurs in other parts of this Bill, and not "radiological material" which normally covers other issues that are not relevant to this particular problem.
The only other point that I would add is that there are excellent means of monitoring for radioactive material. Those are available widely and, I wholly agree, should be extensively used in this kind of situation. However, the monitoring for biological organisms and viruses is an exceptionally difficult and very complex matter. It is not easy to see how that could conceivably be carried out under the terms of the amendment.
The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, I would not like to be the Minister coming to this or another place if something had happened and he had to say, "We did not have the power to ask people to install this piece of equipment, to have foreseen it". Surely the expenditure envisaged is not very much in the great scheme of things: we have just spent God knows how many millions on finding that the heptarchy is not going to be reintroduced. Surely this proposal is so sensible that no one who is a libertarian could object to it. No one who is keen to defend the realm could do anything other than encourage it.
Lord Monson: My Lords, this amendment is a great improvement on the amendment that was tabled in
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Committee. One must pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, for the enormous research that he has undertaken into this matter. Nevertheless, certain reservations remain. For example, who will pay for this equipment, some of which is presumably pretty costly? Will it be the taxpayer, the council tax payer, the business rate payer or the traveller by air or sea indirectly in higher port and airport charges? How much time will local authorities, port authorities and so on be given to obtain the equipment, which may be in short supply even though it apparently currently exists, as the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, informed us? Will the requirement extend to very small airfields with short landing strips that cater for single or twin-engine aircraft, either privately owned or charter, with very few weekly passenger movements? I think that all those questions need an answer.
Lord Swinfen: My Lords, when moving the amendment my noble friend Lord Jopling briefly mentioned inoculation against smallpox. In Committee I asked the Minister how long it was before an inoculation against smallpox and anthrax became effective. The noble Lord promised to write to me. I do not know whether he has, but I have not yet received his letter, should he have written. Perhaps he is now in a position to let the House know how long it takes for inoculations against these two deadly diseases to become effective so that we have properly protected medics able to cope with any sort of outbreak that might occur.
Lord Garden: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, for removing part of this measure that was present in Committee so that we can support what is now a very important set of paragraphs. We need to remember that we are talking about a Bill which will last for many years. While we are desperately interested in the technology that is available now which is good for radioactive substances, is not bad for chemical substances but is not really very good at all for biological substances, things will change over time. It seems to me that these paragraphs are important in terms of our search for ways to protect ourselves against real and increasing threats. Technologies will improve as time goes on. At the same time we want to ensure that local authorities are kept up to date all the time. One of the effects of putting a duty on local authorities will be to get the industry to do more work to provide the kind of things we need. I believe that this is a useful provision. I fully support the need to change the word "radiological" to "radioactive" at some stage. If the amendment is passed, we can do that at the next stage.
Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, I would like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, for updating us on some of the equipment that is now available, which perhaps is not available in this country. This is a very important matter. Perhaps it is the spirit of the amendment that we should consider at the moment. The amendment may need improving at Third Reading, if the spirit were decided upon. Is the Minister aware that some time ago some smallpox
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vials disappeared from a laboratory in Russia and have never been found? It is a terrifying matter. Ebola and SARS, and other such horrible diseases, might be used in acts of terrorism. Therefore, this is a very important matter. I hope that the Minister will give a convincing response; otherwise, I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Jopling, will divide the House.
Lord Berkeley: My Lords, I am sorry to put a spanner in the works regarding what seems to me to have been a lovely big sales pitch for equipment manufacturers who presumably want to sell the Government lots of equipment to do things that we cannot do at the moment.
For my sins, I spent about 10 years building and operating the Channel Tunnel and listening to equipment manufacturers. The Government required Eurotunnel to install machines to check lorries for all kinds of nasty substances. We were told that the machine which was first installed would work, but it did not do so for five years. Then a mark two version was sold at vast expense that caused enormous delays to traffic using the tunnel and great expense to Eurotunnel.
The same thing happened a few years ago regarding illegal immigrants. My noble friend Lord Bassam was involved in dealing with that matter at some stage. The illegal immigrants got into containers and no one could really check whether they were in there. Some of them stayed in; some of them very sadly died; some of them jumped out somewhere along the road from Folkestone onwards. They were not protected. Then they found that a better way to get across the Channel was to land on a beach.
Therefore, I am not quite sure what the point of all this is when we have several thousand miles of coastline where people can smuggle things in if they want to, although they do not always do so. The cost, be it to the Government or to the ports or to the shippersincidentally, this amendment has forgotten the Channel Tunnel completely so that will clearly be a good way inwill be absolutely enormous. As I say, even if the equipment is installed with the delays and the anti-competitiveness to our trade that will result from that, people will still bring in these horrible things and themselves if they want to.
Perhaps some of the relevant equipment works now but the experience of Eurotunnel was that the sales people said that the equipment would work, but it did not. That cost Eurotunnel and everyone else involved an enormous amount of money. I am very cautious about accepting this amendment as, first, I do not believe that half of the relevant equipment works now, and, secondly, because I do not believe that the amendment will achieve its objective as people will be able to come in, perhaps with nasty equipment, some other way.
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