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As to the second part of my noble friends question, obviously I leave it to the Government of Israel to address directly their own security interests. Our policy on this is very clear: all those states that have not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty should do so, as non-nuclear weapon states. Were Israel to do this, it would contribute to peace in the region.
Lord Wright of Richmond: My Lords, is the Minister aware that it is nearly two years since I asked the Government what representations they had made to the Government of Israel to try to persuade them to accede to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? I received a slightly obscure reply from the noble Lord, Lord Triesman, who said:
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Lord tempts me into giving a clear answer on Middle East policy, which is always a dangerous trap. The UK continues to call publicly and privately on Israel to ratify the NPT as a non-nuclear weapon state, and has regular meetings with it to discuss this, most recently in mid-April this year.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, does the Minister agree that one of the great concerns about Iran and the Middle East is the possibility of a series of Governments moving towards producing their own nuclear weapons because of the failure of any nuclear-free zone to be established in the Middle East? Given that countries such as Egypt and Jordan are becoming
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Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, the noble Baroness is completely correct. We have from several countries in the Middle Eastthose she mentionsa real commitment to a nuclear-free zone. We have already seen in Latin America and the South Pacificand potentially in Africa, where the measure is not yet ratified and therefore is not fully entered into forceexactly this principle of nuclear-free zones, with so-called negative security commitments by nuclear powers not to use nuclear force against countries within these zones unless they are allied with other nuclear powers. That is a very good contribution to peace. We are making that case to all those involved and, as I indicated, to Israel as well.
Lord Anderson of Swansea: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that a severely complicating factor against a regional settlement is that a country with nuclear ambitionsIranis threatening to destroy another internationally recognised country; namely, Israel? Is it not true that Israel has had to rely on its own resources in the past to defend its very existence?
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, my noble friend makes an enormously important point that one has to bear in mind in having a balanced approach to this. However, the basic fact remains that a nuclear-free zone, including both Iran and Israel, should be the long-term objective of our efforts.
Lord Davies of Coity: My Lords, it has been widely reported that Senator Clinton, who is expecting to run as a presidential candidate, has said that if Iran drops nuclear bombs on Israel, America will obliterate Iran. What do the Government think of that?
Lord Malloch-Brown: My Lords, whenever I am urged to answer by noble Lords opposite, I am particularly concerned. I think that observation has already provoked a response from other presidential candidates. Obviously, while it is reasonable to warn Iran of the consequences for its security of continuing to develop nuclear weapons, it is probably not prudent in todays world to threaten to obliterate any other country and the civilians resident in such a country.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the Chancellor has today written to John McFall, chairman of the Commons Treasury Select Committee, to outline how we intend to do more to help low-paid workers without children and pensioners aged under 65.
Baroness Noakes: My Lords, in the past few weeks, we have seen the Government move from denial, to an attempt at self-justification and now to a complete U-turn on the question of compensation for people who are losing out from the abolition of the 10p rate. At least we have made progress. I have two questions for the Minister. First, will he give a commitment that the action that the Chancellor has promised today will fully compensate every one of the 5.3 million poor people who are suffering financially? Secondly, will he apologise for the misery and uncertainty suffered as a direct result of the dithering of the Prime Minister and his Chancellor?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, that is almost the first time that I have heard in this House the Conservative Front Bench talking about issues affecting the lowest paid in this country. We recognise the opportunism reflected in the Question.
The position is straightforward. The last Budget significantly reduced child poverty in this country and significantly helped the less well off. The vast majority of people benefited from the last Budget, and the Budget carried out the Governments intention to simplify taxation. Two groups have been identified as not benefiting from the changes; we have indicated today that we intend to seek compensatory arrangements for those two groups. The arrangements cannot be put in place immediately, but we intend to ensure that they are backdated to cover the period from the introduction of the Budget.
Lord Barnett: My Lords, does my noble friend accept that the talk of the consequences of what has been done has been hugely exaggerated on all sides? Does he further accept that most peopleincluding, I thought, the Oppositionare in favour of a single, simple reduced basic rate of 20 per cent? Perhaps some time or other he might ask them. On the other hand, the tax credits, which are supposed to be helping, are very complex and are usually misunderstood or not understood at all. Will he ask the Inland Revenue to look very closely at identifying those who should be getting benefit from tax credits and who are not doing so at the moment?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, on the latter point, not only the Inland Revenue but Ministers are engaged in a campaign to increase the take-up of tax credits, which is notoriously low among certain categories of those who are entitled, including lowly paid single workers, who are part of the problem that we have identified. On the more general issue, my noble friend is absolutely right; if the Opposition have ever managed a semblance of consistency, it is to ask for there to be simplicity in the tax system, which is exactly what the last Budget provided.
Lord Newby: My Lords, the abolition of the 10p rate is being justified by the Government to cut the basic rate of tax. Would not the better way to fund that be to tax those who can better afford it? For example, could not the Government reverse some of the changes that they are proposing on capital gains tax, starting with the ridiculous proposal to reduce the rate of capital gains tax charged on the sale of second homes?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, an invitation from the Liberal party to rewrite the whole of the Budget is to be anticipated because, on the whole, the Liberal party rewrites every Budget each time it is presented without ever making its sums add up to a coherent package of measures. It is constantly critical of what the Government do, but it has to recognise that we have built the strongest economy among the G8 over the past decade.
I say to the noble Lord that this Budget was directed to the key priorities of the Government, such as reducing child poverty and poverty in the country, and we made substantial strides in that direction. The changes that we will effect later this year will add to those points.
The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, this has gone round the block, and I think it is the turn of the noble Lord, Lord Higgins. If he is quick, we will be able to get my noble friend in as well.
Lord Higgins: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Leader of the House. I was seeking to point out, in view of the Ministers first Answer, that in fact I spent some 10 years on the Front Bench stressing the importance of dealing with the problem of the low paid and, particularly in light of the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, pointing out how inefficient the then Chancellor of the Exchequers obsession with tax credits was in helping the low paid. Can the Minister tell us exactly how much has not been claimed in tax credits? It was recently suggested that the figure was more than £1.3 billion.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the take-up of tax credits is not as high as we would want, but is improving each and every year, so we have increased take-up to a significant percentage. But if the noble Lord says that he was concerned about these issues, I have to ask him why, under the previous Administration, the number of children in poverty tripled and has been reduced very significantly indeed under this Administration.
Lord Brookman: My Lords, I apologise for trying to intervene on a Minister of a previous Government, but I cannot recall in my lifetime the Conservative Party being worried about poverty or the low paid.
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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I reassure my noble friend that I was going to agree with him before he asked me whether I agreed with him. Of course I think that the Prime Ministers statement this morning was extremely helpful.
In the defence of someone who reacts with force to an intruder into their house, the Bill proposes that the belief by the man who is reacting that he is under threat can be perceived as completely unreasonable. My amendment makes sure that the genuinely held belief of a threat is a reasonable belief. This matter was brought up in the Joint Committee on Human Rights where the example was given that if there is an intruder in someones house and he is, let us say, black, and the householder believes that all blacks are dangerous, that is, by itself, an unreasonable belief. But we felt that, under the Bill as drafted, if the householder genuinely believed that, he would be entitled to shoot the chap dead, cut him up with a Japanese sword, or whatever it is you do to people who come into your houses. This amendment tries to make sure that the belief that the assailant is a threat must be reasonably held. I beg to move.
Lord Thomas of Gresford: My Lords, I support the noble Earl. I draw your Lordships attention to the well argued view in the report of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, to which he referred. Unlike the Governments position, which is simply to codify the
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Lord Neill of Bladen: My Lords, I question the appropriateness of this clause. A later amendment, to which the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, has, among others, put his name, proposes that the clause should simply be taken out. If I may just for a moment forget the noble Earls amendment, to which I shall come in a second, my underlying point is that the Government are taking a bit of the common law and trying to put it into statute but without explaining their intention in doing so.
It is intended to improve understanding of the practical application of these areas of the law. It uses elements of case law to illustrate how the defence operates. It does not change the current test that allows the use of reasonable force.
which are the common law of self-defence and the statutory provisions that have been mentioned. No change is apparently being made, but now the noble Earl, Lord Onslow, is proposing the introduction of the word reasonably in relation to the state of mind of the accused or the person who is running the defence of self-defence when it is said that the amount of force that he used was not reasonable.
If we are to get down to this and examine it properly, it should go to the Law Commission and not just be put into a Bill with no adequate explanation, which opens the way for amendments. The Government are introducing tinkering amendments which add nothing to what is already in the Bill.
In fact, the noble Earl is altering the law and I shall illustrate that. I apologise for taking a minute or two but this is a serious matter: it is playing around with the defence of self-defence in common law. I shall cite the 17th edition of a book on criminal law by Card,
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What modesty! I feel very reassured when I quote from his bookhe cannot be beaten. He starts with a proposition in the following terms. I am reading from page 774, paragraph 19.8. I shall keep it as short as I can but I attach importance to this:
That is nice and simple. It is a clear proposition. You just put yourself in the position of the man in the street watching the event and you take what the defendant believes the situation to be. He thinks that he is being attacked by three people, although one man is there. You take his belief but then you ask what the reasonable man would think he was reasonably doing.
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