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Lord Rooker:ot at the moment, my Lords. We are close to it. We have had 108 cases of establishments with bluetongue. Some 42 were discovered during the checks over the winter; there have been 80,000 pre-movement checks. At that rate, the figure of 108 is still quite small. The general assessment is that we will be ready to start vaccinating as soon as the vaccine arrives, in April or May. We were the first country in the European Union to order supplies. Vaccination will be done on a voluntary basis, as I have explained,

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but will have the cheapest distribution costs of anywhere in Europe. There will come a time, as my noble friend says, when the assessment may be that to continue trading, we have to declare the whole of GB a protection zone. We are not at that state yet but we will not be far from it if there are major outbreaks of bluetongue in the spring.

Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, to follow up on that response, the Government have stated their intention to set up a rolling vaccination programme by extending the current zones once the animals within the zones have been vaccinated. Has this strategy already received European blessing or is it a way round the EU regulation to declare the whole of England a single zone?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, it is not a way round the EU regulation. Everything we have done has been agreed with the European Union. Our vaccination programme has been agreed with it, contrary to last week’s misleading and unprofessional press release from the Federation of Veterinarians of Europe, which has been rebutted strongly by the Chief Veterinary Officer. There will be a case for allowing animal movements in order to continue trade. The fact that we found only 42 cases in 80,000 checks over the winter shows that the zones are in roughly the right place. We have confidence in that. There will come a time, and it may not be far away, when the zones will be extended—they are quite large now—and that to protect trade it will be easier to cover the whole country. We will do that in conjunction with our European partners. They have agreed with everything we have done so far and agree with our vaccination plans as well.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, can the Minister predict how much bluetongue is expected throughout the UK this coming summer?

Lord Rooker: My Lords, I do not know. We have midge traps around the country. We know how many midges we trapped from November to December, what happened with the temperatures and all the other factors. Because of the date now, the temperature change and the possibility of the virus living over the winter, we will know within about a month whether we will have some serious problems. I cannot possibly predict the scale of it.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, could my noble friend help a non-farmer like me? Is it safe to eat meat from a cow that has bluetongue? If it is, what are we worrying about? We can let the whole lot have bluetongue and save a lot of government money.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, animals that are poorly do not go to slaughter; they do not enter the food chain.

Viscount Ullswater: My Lords, is it right that the livestock sector should bear all the financial risks of the closure of markets by the Government when there is an outbreak of any of these exotic diseases?

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Lord Rooker: My Lords, we are talking about bluetongue, not foot and mouth. Simply because of the transmission rate the markets were not affected—or only to the extent of moving animals from one zone to another. They could move from the protection zone to slaughter but could not be moved if they were going to live. There was some interference in trade but no closure of markets. It is true that everywhere these zones are drawn on the map the abattoirs and the markets are the wrong side of the line, but there were no actual closures. Animals could continue to move from a protection zone to slaughter.

Asylum Seekers: Iran

2.59 pm

Lord Roberts of Llandudno asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My Lords, we recognise that there are individuals from Iran who are able to demonstrate a need for international protection, and it is only right that we provide protection to those in genuine fear of persecution. However, enforcing the return of those who have no right to remain here is a key part of upholding a robust and fair asylum system.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: My Lords, I am not sure whether or not I thank the Minister for that reply. I thank the 80 Members of this House who last week joined me in the appeal on behalf of the young Iranian whose deportation has been delayed. I thank the Home Secretary for her response.

When people are forcibly removed from the UK, what mechanism is there to monitor the treatment they receive in their homeland? How do we keep an eye on that? And is it not time, in spite of the Minister’s Answer, that we joined other countries in having a moratorium on forced return not only to Iran but to other places where folk are persecuted, tortured and possibly even executed?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, it is worth saying that we are not aware of any individual who has been executed in Iran in recent years solely on the grounds of homosexuality, and we do not consider that there is systematic persecution of gay men in Iran. However, we have said in our most recent operational guidance note that if a claimant can demonstrate that their homosexual acts have brought them to the attention of the authorities to the extent that they will face a real risk of punishment that will be harsh and will amount to persecution, they should be granted refugee status as a member of a particular social group. In addition, gay rights activists who have come to the attention of the authorities face a real risk of persecution, and they should be granted asylum as well.

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Lord Alton of Liverpool: My Lords, is the Minister aware that in the past 30 years some 120,000 members of the Iranian Resistance have been executed, including women and children? Is he further aware that in this week’s elections more than 1,000 reformist candidates were prevented from standing, their newspapers were closed down and they were refused permission to hold public meetings? Given those circumstances and the need to encourage democracy and change in Iran, how can the Government justify the continued decision to proscribe the Iranian Resistance, a decision that our own judges have described as, to use their word, perverse?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, that is a bit beyond the Question being asked. On the issue of the returning of gay people to Iran, we have concerns about the treatment of gays in that country. The FCO and NGOs monitor what is happening in Iran, and we are not aware of any individual having been executed solely on the grounds of homosexuality.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: My Lords, can the Minister confirm that there have been 57 critical reports in the United Nations about the repressive nature of the mullahs’ regime in Iran? The abuses of human rights include the amputation of limbs without anaesthetics, the gouging out of eyes, the hanging of convicted minors from the ends of cranes in public and the death penalty for those convicted of homosexuality. Will the Minister take the opportunity to speak to any one of 200 Members of your Lordships’ House who share my views on this vile regime if he needs any other evidence that it is unsafe to return asylum seekers to that regime?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I return to what I said: we are not aware of any individual having been executed solely on the grounds of homosexuality in Iran, and we are not aware of any that we have returned having been executed.

Baroness Warsi: My Lords, is the Minister aware of discrepancies between in-country information provided in briefs by the Foreign Office and reports produced by Amnesty and Human Rights Watch about the situation in Iran? If the Minister accepts that there are such discrepancies and that our information is not entirely correct, how can our decisions possibly be correct?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I am going by the information provided, I admit, by the Foreign Office in conjunction with some NGOs. We have no evidence of anyone we have sent back being executed, and we would never send someone back who we felt was in danger of being executed. That is our position with any country in the world; we just do not do that.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, further to the point raised by the noble Baroness, is the Minister aware that the Country of Origin Information Service report on Iran, published by the Home Office, is deficient in many respects? Does he know that it omits quite a few public domain references to the persecution of gays in Iran, including in particular the execution of Makwan Mouloudzadeh, a teenager who was executed for a homosexual offence allegedly committed when he was 13? Will the noble Lord make sure that the Home

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Office Country of Origin Information Service updates its report and that, in particular, it looks at material in the public domain such as that which one can find on Wikipedia?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord that we will look at that. It is worth repeating that we have concerns about the treatment of gays within Iran. However, in the one case that we looked into, because it was shown on television, we found that two young males were hanged because they were found guilty of raping a 13 year-old boy. They were hanged for the offence of rape. Nevertheless, we certainly will look at the point that the noble Lord raises, as we need to do so.

Lord Wedderburn of Charlton: My Lords, can my noble friend explain how the Foreign Office has performed the miracle of having Nelson still alive in its offices with his telescope stuck to his blind eye?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, as a naval person I should be able to answer that. All I can say is that I will talk to my colleagues in the Foreign Office to try to ensure that we are getting the best flavour of exactly what is happening in Iran.

Immigration (Discharged Gurkhas) Bill [HL]

3.06 pm

Lord Lee of Trafford: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to amend the Immigration Rules in connection with the requirements for indefinite leave to enter and remain in the United Kingdom as a Gurkha discharged from the British Army. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Bill read a first time, and ordered to be printed.

Statute Law (Repeals) Bill [HL]

3.07 pm

Lord Bach: My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

As your Lordships will be aware, one of the statutory functions of the Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission is to promote the repeal of obsolete and unnecessary enactments. In fulfilment of this function, the Law Commissions have over the past 40 years presented to Parliament 18 reports on statute law repeals with draft Bills attached. The 17 previous reports have resulted in the repeal of over 2,000 whole Acts and partial repeal of thousands of other Acts. The present Bill proposes the repeal of more than 250 whole Acts and the removal of obsolete provisions from nearly 70 others.

The repeals in the Bill are set out in Schedule 1. They are in 11 parts. The areas covered range, alphabetically, from “Armed Forces” and “County Gaols” to “Town and Country Planning” and “Turnpikes”. They include six Acts to finance the building of workhouses in the London area, including

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an 1819 Act to build the one in Wapping mentioned by Charles Dickens in The Uncommercial Traveller. There are also 12 obsolete Acts relating to the affairs of the East India Company in the period 1796 to 1832.

Your Lordships will wish to know that the Law Commissions have consulted fully with interested bodies on all the proposed repeals. This Bill and its predecessors play a valuable part in the work of modernising and improving the statute book. I am sure that your Lordships would wish to join me in thanking the two Law Commissions for the very careful and detailed way in which they have set about this important task. I should also like to thank those who have been consulted by the commissions for their contributions.

As some of the repeals relate to devolved matters in Scotland, a legislative consent Motion has been lodged with the Scottish Parliament, in accordance with standard practice. If your Lordships are content to give the Bill a Second Reading, it will be referred to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills in the usual way. I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lord Bach.)

3.09 pm

Lord Henley: My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on introducing this very worthy Bill which, as he said, adds another 200 whole Acts to the 2,000 or so that have been repealed over the past few years as a result of the work of the Law Commission and the Scottish Law Commission. I offer my congratulations to them as well.

I was amused that in referring to some of the historical anomalies being repealed by the Bill, the Minister mentioned those relating to the East India Company. The first six of those relate to the East India Company and the Nabobs of the Carnatic Acts, whereas the seventh relates to the East India Company and Creditors of the Nabobs of the Carnatic Act. I do not know what happened to the finances of the nabobs of the Carnatic in that time, but perhaps the noble Lord will be able to discover the answer when he attends the Consolidation Bills Committee.

I also note with amusement that some of the Acts being repealed were passed by the current Government as recently as 2003—from the Home Office, we have parts of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 and parts of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. I again appeal to the Minister and the Ministry of Justice, the department he represents, to consider passing fewer Bills—perhaps starting with the criminal justice Bill which is currently before the House. There might then be fewer to repeal in due course.

3.11 pm

Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I regret to see in the schedule the repeal of the Chester Castle Gaol and other Buildings Act 1807. I know that jail well. What I do not see in the Bill is the repeal of a provision that is widely believed to appertain to

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Chester, that any Welshman caught within the walls in the hours of darkness will be summarily executed. Perhaps that has gone in an earlier statute law repeals Bill. I assure the Minister that I shall look into it to ensure that it is not still relevant.

We welcome the Bill and the work of the Law Commission. We are working with the Government and others to see how the Law Commission’s recommendations can be brought into operation much more quickly and by a simplified procedure. We applaud this Second Reading.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, will there be any recommendations on consolidation before the Bill is sent to the Joint Committee? I ask because I am a member of the committee.

3.12 pm

Lord Bach: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken. In answer to the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, I do not believe that there will be an attempt at consolidation in this Bill. I am grateful particularly to the Front Benches opposite for their welcome to the Bill. I am sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, is upset by the mention of the jail to which he referred. I shall ensure that its inclusion in the Bill is carefully looked into to see whether that is appropriate or whether it should be excluded. But I am grateful for his comments.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Henley, for his support. He specifically mentioned the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 and pointed out that it was passed under this Government. I can at least assure him that the East India Company Acts were not passed under a Labour Government. However, Sections 37 and 38 of the 2001 Act—I know he will want to hear the details, even if the House wants to move on—were intended to repeal provisions. They became spent when their respective repeals took effect at Royal Assent on 14 December 2001. So I do not think that that Act and that course can be used to blame this Government. But I congratulate him on a good try.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, would the Minister be good enough to tell the House what the oldest Act on the statute book will be after this Bill is enacted?

The Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Rooker): Minors shall not be MPs Act 1695.

Lord Bach: My Lords, I had no idea but my noble friend Lord Rooker has come up with an answer. I think that that is minors spelt with an “o”. If I am wrong about that, I will write to the noble Lord.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to the Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills.

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