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Amendments Nos. 28 and 330, which relate to Schedules 1 and 15, place the responsibility for laying before Parliament the audited annual accounts of the Legal Services Board and the Office for Legal Complaints on the Lord Chancellor. They bring the Legal Services Bill into line with similar legislation that has been introduced since 2000. Further, they ensure that the Government follow usual practice in the commercial sector, where companies rather than auditors file the accounts.

Of the other amendments in this group, some, such as Amendments Nos. 47, 602 and 656,are included to ensure that the terminology throughout the Bill is consistent and to remedy minor drafting and typographical anomalies. These include, for example, replacing “trade mark attorney” with “trade mark agency”, ensuring that the definition of manager in Clauses 176 and 177 is consistent with the definition in Clause 197 and correcting a minor drafting anomaly in Schedule 2.

We have made a number of amendments to make it clear that the restrictions on providing immigration services and immigration advice currently contained in the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 still apply. The amendments also ensure that qualified solicitors, registered foreign lawyers, legal partnerships and recognised bodies are afforded the same transitional protection as individual solicitors.

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We have also amended the Public Notaries Acts of 1801 and 1843 to bring that profession into line with the new legal framework. Amendments made here preserve the existing exemption from a requirement to be authorised to conduct notarial activities that certain ecclesiastical appointees and government officials currently rely on, ensure that entitlement to carry out a notarial activity is determined in accordance with the Bill rather than the 1801 or 1843 Acts, give transitional protection to entities that conduct notarial activities and remove the offence of practising as a notary without authorisation, which is now covered by the Bill.

Amendments Nos. 71, 84, 91 and 658 will allow the Association of Law Costs Draftsmen to be added to the list of approved regulators in Schedule 4 to the Bill. They will also ensure that those members of the ALCD who are currently authorised to exercise rights of audience and rights to conduct litigation will be able to continue to do so under the new arrangements. They also provide that, for a transitional period, such persons will be deemed to be authorised to administer oaths. The Association of Law Costs Draftsmen became an authorised body under the current regulatory provisions—Schedule 4 to the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990—following an affirmative resolution order which came into effect on 1 January 2007. These amendments simply update the provisions of Schedules 4, 5 and 22 to that Bill to reflect that.

These amendments bring the Bill into line with the commitment made in Committee to transfer functions from the Secretary of State to the Lord Chancellor. In addition, this group includes technical amendments to take into account the provision of immigration services and advice under the new regime, to bring the Public Notaries Acts of 1801 and 1843 in line with the Bill, to add the Association of Law Costs Draftsmen to the table of approved regulators in Schedule 4 and to make the terminology within the Bill consistent.

One of the key aims of the new arrangements that we want to put in place is to ensure a greater degree of independence and consistency in regulation, with a single independent oversight regulator—as opposed to many—with clear objectives, setting clear standards across the sector. Each of these individual amendments plays a small but important part in that process and helps to address Sir David Clementi’s concerns about an overcomplex and inconsistent system of regulation. I beg to move.

4 pm

Lord Maclennan of Rogart: My Lords, the group of amendments that we are considering was foreshadowed in the debate that we had in Committee to which the Minister referred; the reasoning for the amendments was endorsed, indeed, presaged by me in that debate.

It is important that the new regulatory system should so far as possible ensure greater independence of the legal professions from government; the substitution in the Bill of “Lord Chancellor” for “Secretary of State” was designed to bring that about. Since that

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debate, however, major changes have been announced in the structuring of government with regard to the role of the Lord Chancellor. It would be helpful if before this debate was concluded the Government could give some indication of how the establishment of a Ministry of Justice may have to be reflected in their thinking about the purposes that they have supported in introducing these amendments.

The office of Minister of Justice, which will no doubt—or perhaps I should say “probably”—still attract the title of Lord Chancellor, may be held by a Member of the House of Commons. That seems highly probable. It may be held by someone who is not a lawyer and who, in this new role as Minister of Justice with its very wide responsibilities, will not necessarily carry the conventional views on how the office should be discharged. The role in the Cabinet of the new Secretary of State/Minister of Justice/Lord Chancellor may be quite different from that historically discharged by the Lord Chancellor.

The change announced by the noble and learned Lord the Lord Chancellor was strongly supported on these Benches, but we equally strongly support the intention that the regulation of the legal professions and services should be so far as possible at arm’s length from government. The independence of that system is very important if public confidence is to be retained. We shall certainly have to give further thought to the consequences of that announcement on this Bill and possibly return to the matter at a later stage.

Lord Kingsland: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for his observations on amendments that he described as technical. By my calculations, there are 550 government amendments on Report, of which 230 concern, exclusively, the change between the role of the Secretary of State and that of the Lord Chancellor. I applaud the Government for making that change. Whatever the future fate of the office, there is no doubt that the responsibilities of someone who is described as Lord Chancellor under Section 1 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 are materially different from those of the Secretaries of State. I trust that, as a result of amendments that no doubt the Government will accept from us today, the independence of the legal profession will enormously strengthen the constitutional guarantees of the independence of the judiciary.

The Minister described the remaining amendments as technical, and I entirely agree with him. The sadness is that, despite many of the hopes that the noble Baroness, Lady Ashton, engendered in our hearts and minds in Committee, the Report stage amendments are little more than technical, with the changes to the status of the Secretary of State and the insertion of “public interest” in Clause 1 being remarkable and welcome exceptions.

On behalf of the Opposition, I express great disappointment. These are not party-political matters that lie between us. We all have a common interest in ensuring that legal services are provided properly, effectively and at a reasonable cost, and that the independence of the profession is preserved.

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The noble Baroness expressed broad agreement on almost all the amendments that we tabled. Yet, on Report, we find nothing of substance from the Government. I hope that during what is likely to be a long Report stage, when we try again to change the noble Baroness’s mind, she will respond more positively, even if only a shade.

On Question, amendment agreed to.


4.06 pm

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall now repeat a Statement made in another place by my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary. The Statement is as follows:

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a Statement about operational events during the Recess. Before I start, I know that the whole House will join me in expressing my condolences to the families and friends of the nine service men and women who have lost their lives since the House last sat. “On 1 April, Kingsman Danny Wilson and, on 2 April, Rifleman Aaron Lincoln were killed by small arms fire while on patrol in Basra City. On 5 April, Second Lieutenant Joanna Yorke Dyer, Corporal Kris O’Neill, Private Eleanor Dlugosz, Kingsman Adam Smith and their interpreter were killed when their Warrior vehicle was hit by a massive bomb west of Basra City. On 13 April, Private Chris Gray was killed in Afghanistan in a firefight with the Taliban and, on Saturday night, two servicemen were killed when two UK helicopters collided north of Baghdad. An investigation is ongoing, but all the evidence so far indicates that this was an accident, not an attack. Several personnel were seriously injured during this period in these and other incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they too are in our thoughts.“This is a reminder of the risks faced every day by our forces on our behalf. I offer our gratitude and profound respect for those who have died and those who have been injured in the service of their country.“Members will understand that there is a strict time limit on this Statement. I intend to focus on the incident which has attracted the most public and parliamentary attention during the recess; namely, the incident in which 15 of our personnel were captured and detained by the Iranians and the events that followed.“I will describe, first, the incident itself; secondly, how it was handled diplomatically; and thirdly, how it was handled in media terms, including the decision to allow serving personnel to talk to the media individually and to accept payment for so doing—decisions for which, as I have already made clear, I accept responsibility. Finally, I will set out how we intend to learn the lessons for the future.“I turn first to the incident itself. On 23 March, HMS ‘Cornwall’ was operating as part of the coalition taskforce in the northern Arabian Gulf under the authority of a UN resolution. The

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taskforce is responsible for a range of maritime security operations, including protecting the Iraqi oil infrastructure and undertaking boardings to disrupt weapons smuggling.“At 0753, ‘Cornwall’ launched two boats, with a Lynx helicopter in support, with the intention to board MV ‘Tarawa’, a merchant vessel that had evaded a boarding the day before. En route, the Lynx flew over a different vessel, MV ‘Al Hanin’, and reported a suspect cargo. A decision was made to board the ‘Al Hanin’. The position was well inside Iraqi waters.“The boarding team boarded the vessel and, at 0846, the Royal Marine boarding officer reported the ship secure. The Lynx was tasked to return to the ‘Cornwall’. By 0900, the helicopter was back on board and put at 30 minutes’ notice to fly.“At 0904, one of the two Royal Navy boats reported Iranian Revolutionary Guard Navy activity nearby. Very soon afterwards, one of the boats reported that the Iranians were beside them. By 0906, voice communications with the boats were lost and, shortly after, all communications were lost.“At 0928, the Lynx was launched again and returned to the position of the ‘Al Hanin’. Initially, it was unable to find the UK boats, but at 1005 one was spotted being escorted by Iranian vessels.“That concludes what I can say today about the operational details. I am happy to answer questions, but there is not much more to say at this stage until investigations are complete. I will say two final things. First, the Royal Navy is not currently conducting boarding operations, although coalition partners are, and the Navy continues to fulfil its other tasks. Secondly, I support the decision of the Royal Marine captain to order his boarding party to lower their readied weapons. As he put it, he judged that if they had resisted, “Let me turn now to the diplomatic handling of the incident. The Iranians detained our personnel illegally and took them first to an Iranian Revolutionary Guard naval base and from there to Tehran. We made clear both directly to the Iranians and in public statements that their detention was unacceptable and that they should be released immediately.“We made intense diplomatic efforts to establish direct lines of communication with Iranian leaders to prevent the situation escalating and to resolve it quickly. It became clear that this alone would not be enough, not least because of the internal struggles within Iran as to who had control of the situation.“We therefore galvanised the international community to put pressure on the Iranian regime. The Prime Minister has rightly paid tribute to those friends in the EU, in the UN and in the region who supported us and who condemned the illegal detention. I am in no doubt that this focused minds at the top of the Iranian regime.

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“Our personnel were released on Wednesday 4 April, after a predictable attempt by the Iranian president to turn it into a propaganda victory. But this should fool no one. Serious observers do not believe that Iran has emerged from this in a stronger position. We should remember that our main objective, the peaceful resolution of the incident and the safe return of our people, was achieved earlier than many predicted. Let me be clear: there was no apology, and no deal.“Let me turn now to the media handling of this incident. On Thursday 5 April, the 15 personnel arrived in the UK and were debriefed and reunited with their families. The next day, six of the 15 held a collective press conference, organised by the MoD, which was uncontroversial. The controversy surrounds the relations between individual personnel and the media. The media had approached the families of the detainees while they were still being held in Iran. There were many offers of payment. These approaches intensified as soon as the 15 were released and it was clear that the pressure would soon be transferred from the families to the individuals themselves. They were already aware of the criticism of their behaviour while detained and some were intent on setting the record straight. “This left us with a dilemma. We had a duty of care to the individuals and their families, who were under intense pressure. On the Thursday, all those involved took the view that we should allow the individuals to talk to the media and that we should support them through that process. I believe that all those involved in this decision acted in good faith and out of a desire to protect the individuals, to protect the service and to protect operational security against the risks inherent in unofficial dialogue with the media. These were real risks, which have materialised in the past.“Once the decision had been taken to allow the individuals to talk to the media, this raised a second question: how to handle the fact that the media were competing for these individuals by offering substantial sums of money. This second question was considered by the Navy over the same short period. The Navy concluded that payments were ‘permissible’ under Queen’s Regulations, and that in this particular situation it was,them. This was the position presented to me in a note sent from the Navy’s HQ in Portsmouth to my office on Thursday afternoon, and which was put to me on Good Friday.“I accept that in retrospect I should have rejected the note and over-ruled the decision. The circumstances were exceptional and the pressure on the families was intense. The Navy’s decision was taken in good faith, and so was its interpretation of the regulations. But I should have foreseen that this attempt by the Navy in good faith to handle an exceptional situation would be interpreted as indicating a new departure in the way the Armed Forces deal with the media.

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“Over the weekend I discussed the issue further, and on Monday I asked for further advice from naval chiefs and the Chief of the Defence Staff. I decided that we must immediately review the rules and stop any further media payments to serving personnel until this review was complete. I informed the Prime Minister—which, as he has made clear, was his only involvement in this matter—and announced the decision in a statement. “Let me be clear with the House: I made a mistake. I have been completely open about that. And to the extent that what happened between Friday and Monday has caused people to question the hard-won reputation of the Armed Forces, that is something I profoundly regret; but I remind people that precisely because this reputation is hard won, it is not easily undermined. These are the facts as I know them.“Let me turn to what happens now. I made clear on Monday the implications for the specific issue of serving personnel receiving payment—that this must not happen again. But clearly there are other lessons to be learned from this whole incident. “The first aspect is the operational circumstances and factors leading to the capture of the 15 personnel. This was an unusual situation with wide and far-reaching consequences; and to reflect this, I can announce that the Chief of the Defence Staff has appointed Lieutenant-General Sir Robert Fulton, Royal Marines, currently the Governor-General of Gibraltar, to lead an inquiry. As a retired former commander of UK amphibious taskforces, he will bring both expertise and objectivity to the inquiry. It will cover all operational aspects, including risk and threat assessment, strategic and operational planning, tactical decisions, rules of engagement, training, equipment and resources. I expect this to take around six weeks. Clearly it will consider operationally sensitive material and, as such, it will not be possible to publish all the conclusions, but they will be presented to the House of Commons Defence Select Committee in full. I am committed to ensuring that Parliament and the public have the full facts but, just as importantly, to ensuring that the MoD and the services learn from these events and do not let this happen again. “In a similar spirit, and on the same timeframe, I can also announce that I will be asking a small team to take over the review of the media handling which I started last week. The team will consist of a senior officer and a senior MoD official, both unconnected with these events, and will be led by an independent figure with wide media experience. The review will draw on all relevant experience—not just of this incident but of other high-profile incidents involving personnel on operations. “I want to make it clear that this review is not a witch hunt. As I have already said, I take responsibility for this particular case. Rather, the review will seek to identify lessons and make recommendations on how to manage the complex issues at play in this area: how to balance our duty

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to support our people, our duty of transparency, our duty to protect the reputation of the services and, most important, our duty to protect the security of our personnel in a demanding media environment. “I take responsibility for what happened over last weekend. I have acted to put it right. I have acted to make sure we learn the lessons of the whole episode in a manner that allows for full parliamentary scrutiny. But, as we go through this process, we should remember the most important point in all this, which is that we got our people back safe and on our terms”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

4.22 pm

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement and I join him in sending our condolences to the families of those who died in the Puma helicopters and to the families of the other members of the Armed Forces killed during the Recess. Our thoughts are also with those personnel who were seriously injured. While we have been enjoying our Easter holidays, our Armed Forces have been serving on our behalf, sometimes paying the ultimate price.

I am sure that it gave the Minister no pleasure to have to make this humiliating Statement any more than it has given any of us pleasure to hear it. I say nothing at this stage about the victims of these events—the 15 British sailors and marines who were seized, detained and exhibited by the Iranians. Some people may be willing to regard the whole thing as a chapter of accidents, but that, I fear, is not the truth of the matter. The truth is that they were seized, clearly unlawfully, while engaged on operations for which they were inadequately equipped, inadequately briefed and inadequately supported.

The inadequacies have not arisen from this operation; they have been long-standing, as noble and gallant Lords and many other noble Lords from all sides of this House have warned time and time again. The inadequacies are thus the direct fault of Her Majesty’s Government and of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer in particular, together with their successive Secretaries of State for Defence, due to their persistent determination to take unfair advantage of the can-do attitude of our Armed Forces and to task those forces spread over-thinly on the ground, on the water and in the air—in short, to do as much as possible with as little as possible.

So we welcome the announcement of the setting up of an inquiry. My right honourable friend David Cameron made it clear that the Opposition, speaking for the country as a whole, require there to be a prompt and full inquiry, examining and reporting on the fundamental causes as well as the incidental events. Those who are fortunate to know Sir Rob Fulton will immediately agree that he is exactly the right person to undertake this task. We hear what was said in the Statement about not publishing the full conclusions of the Fulton report and about disclosing the whole to the Defence Committee in the other place. I believe that I will have the support of all sides

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of the House when I say that it is essential that the report’s findings should be disclosed equally fully to a representative body of noble Lords. I must therefore ask the Minister whether he will take steps to consult the usual channels as soon as possible on how such a body can best be established.

In the mean time, there are some outstanding questions to which the public are entitled to an immediate answer. Is it usual for mother ships to stand off at large distances—10 nautical miles in this case—from ongoing boarding operations? It is well known that because of atmospheric conditions in the area, radio communications often fail, as appears to have happened in this case. Why, if it is standard practice and necessary to maintain continuous air cover during such operations, did the Lynx return to HMS “Cornwall” and why was it then at only 30 minutes notice to fly? Is it a correct decision that all our naval boarding operations should now be halted while, as we are told in the Statement, they are continued by our allies, or is this another example of a hasty and unconsidered decision by the Secretary of State?

Will the Fulton report also cover the number of personnel who should be involved in boarding operations, their armaments and additional support that should always be on hand? Why was the incursion by the Iranians not picked up by HMS “Cornwall”? It is only three years since other members of our Armed Forces were illegally seized by the Iranians. What procedures were put in place after discussions with the Iranians after that seizure? Are they still valid?

The main role of HMS “Cornwall” has been to protect the Iraqi oil infrastructure. Who will be responsible for that when HMS “Cornwall” is paid off? Is the Minister satisfied that naval personnel receive adequate conduct-after-capture training to cope with likely increased efforts to take them hostage?

While welcoming the setting up of a review of media handling, why were proper plans not in place for the return of the captives, particularly in light of the PCC’s warning to the MoD of the possible media circus and its offer of help.

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