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House of Lords

Wednesday, 16 July 2008.

The House met at three o'clock: the LORD SPEAKER on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Exeter.

House of Lords: Carbon Footprint

Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked the Chairman of Committees:

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): My Lords, the House participates with the House of Commons in a scheme to offset carbon emissions produced from parliamentary air travel booked through the Travel Office. Payments are made into the Government Carbon Offsetting Fund, which funds projects to reduce emissions in the developing world. A high proportion of European Select Committee travel is undertaken by rail rather than air because many of the destinations, such as Brussels, are easily accessible by train.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, I thank the Lord Chairman for that excellent reply; it is good to know that the House is taking the issue seriously. He will be aware that CO2 emissions for plane journeys to Glasgow amount to 95.4 kilograms, compared with 21.3 kilograms for train journeys. On journeys to Brussels and Paris, the advantage in favour of Eurostar is 10:1. Does he agree that the House could do rather more to encourage everyone to travel by means that are cost-effective and environmentally friendly? Is there some way in which Members of the House could have the carbon footprint of their journeys identified and pointed out to them?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, we are well aware of the advantages of rail travel, for journeys where that is appropriate, over air travel. However, I would hesitate to recommend to noble Lords who live in Scotland or Northern Ireland that they should take the train or the boat.

Noble Lords: Hear, hear!

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I can see that I have hit the right note on that, which is always encouraging when I am answering a question. However, I agree with the noble Lord that we should do our best. In the last period, we spent £4,486 on the Government Carbon Offsetting Fund.

Lord Shutt of Greetland: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that one way of proceeding would be for a duty, as regards the nub of this Question, to be placed on every committee of this House when they meet in the autumn, and then for the House Committee to consider the reports of each committee so that we can decide how to proceed on this issue?

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The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, when organising trips, the Committee Office’s policy is that they should be undertaken by the most environmentally friendly means. However, air is probably the only option for a Select Committee trip to Washington. If you are going to Brussels, Paris, or other destinations in Europe, train is not only the most environmental but the most convenient option. I assure the House that the Committee Office takes these matters into account.

Lord Tanlaw: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that statistics from Defra clearly show that if individual Members and staff gave up their motor cars and rode to the palace on horseback or in a bullock cart every day for work, the methane carbon footprint created would be equal to about 10,000 road miles of a Chelsea tractor? Does the Chairman of Committees therefore agree that, ultimately, the total carbon footprints created by the livestock and transport industries are about the same size? Should the Government penalise the farmer and the parliamentarian motorist at the same level of green taxation? Would we then not all be obliged to reduce our individual carbon footprint, following the inspirational lead of the right honourable gentleman the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, by becoming a nation of vegetarian bicyclists?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, that is an extremely interesting question from the noble Lord, although I am disappointed by it because I had hoped that I would be able to give vent to my views on changing the clocks to European time. I am sure that the noble Lord made many interesting points, but I cannot answer them at this stage.

Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, can the Lord Chairman give the House some examples of the way that the parliamentary offset fund is being spent?

The Chairman of Committees: No, my Lords. It goes into the government scheme operated by Defra, but where the money goes, I would not know.

Lord Sewel: My Lords, can the Chairman of Committees confirm that for those of us who book our air tickets over the internet, it would be appropriate for Members to tick the carbon offsetting box when we do so?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I would not dream of advising the House on whether to do that; that must be a matter for personal choice.

Baroness Oppenheim-Barnes: My Lords, does not the noble Lord agree that carbon footprints approaching your Lordships’ House are made considerably worse by the fact that so many roads are up and so many detours have to be taken, so one is standing for so long with engines running in traffic as a result? Does he agree that that does not help?

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The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, I am sure that it does not help, but it is a matter for Westminster City Council rather than for me.

The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, will the Chairman of Committees express sympathy for all Members on the Bishops’ Bench who are at the Lambeth conference over the next two weeks, because of its carbon footprint?

The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, if that were all that I was expected to express sympathy for in the Lambeth conference, that would be easy to do, but I gather that it has other problems.

Photography: Public Places

3.13 pm

Lord Rosser asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the freedom of the press and media is one of the bedrocks of democracy in this country. Although police officers have the discretion to ask people not to take photographs for public safety or security reasons, the taking of photographs in a public place is not subject to any rules or statute. There are no legal restrictions on photography in a public place and no presumption of privacy for individuals in a public place. There are no current plans to review this policy.

Lord Rosser: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply, but is he aware that magazines for photographers are reporting that photographers, including professional press photographers, are being challenged by police and private security guards when taking photographs in the street and other public places? Photographers are sometimes filmed themselves; they are told to move on or asked for their name and address. They feel that they are being harassed. Although that development no doubt relates to the changed security situation, will my noble friend seek discussions with the Association of Chief Police Officers and other interested parties with a view to establishing clearer guidelines to be consistently applied and a mutually acceptable balance between security needs and the legal right to take photographs in public places?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I have a great deal of sympathy for the viewpoint expressed by my noble friend. I, too, have heard those concerns; indeed, friends and family have been affected by this. My right honourable friend Tony McNulty, the Home Office Minister for Security, Counter-terrorism, Crime and Policing, will shortly meet Mr Jeremy Dear, the general secretary of the National Union of Journalists, to discuss some of the issues that my noble friend raised in his Question, as well as guidelines for journalists. We will also make contact with the Association of

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Chief Police Officers and the National Policing Improvement Agency about the provision of national guidelines for use by police forces.

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, on asking this Question. Why has it taken the Government so long to address this matter when the petition on the No. 10 website went up some six months ago? The Government must have been aware of the extent of the concern among photographers.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I have read some journals on this issue recently. Most of the concern appears to be about interaction with private security operatives. I recognise the sensitivity of the issue, which is why we are more than happy to meet Mr Jeremy Dear. The Home Secretary recently wrote to him expressing our desire to ensure that people are free and able to take photographs in public places, which is why we are taking a serious look at this issue.

Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, can the Minister advise the House how many prosecutions and convictions have been made for the offence of photography contrary to Section 1 of the Official Secrets Act 1911?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I do not have those data. I asked what statistics there might be on this issue, but I do not have any. I am prepared to talk to our officials to see whether there have been any prosecutions, but I am not aware of any.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, are there any restrictions on CCTV cameras? Are they considered to be street photography, as that is where they are usually placed? Are they treated any differently or can anyone put up a CCTV camera anywhere?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, other than the fact that they are subject to planning rules and restrictions, I doubt whether there are a great number of restrictions on CCTV cameras. The use of the material has, quite rightly, to be governed by data protection legislation. From time to time that emerges as an issue, as I am sure the noble Baroness is aware.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware of a report in the press today about a father who was prevented from photographing his children in a fairground by a crazy woman who thought that her child was also being photographed and that the photograph might be put on the internet? All of us who have children or grandchildren like to photograph them. Is it not time that the hysteria that has built up was quelled?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I quite agree. We need to have a sense of proportion on such issues. Photography in schools and the capturing of images of other people’s children have emerged as a matter of public debate. The noble Countess is on the right lines:

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we need to keep a sense of proportion. By and large, most people do, but one does hear of these irritating cases.

Lord Mawhinney: My Lords, I am sure that many in the House will welcome the noble Lord’s intention to look at the issuing of guidelines for the police. How would the Government make those guidelines apply in practice to the private security industry, which creates the impression of having a slightly more cavalier attitude than the police?

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, we as a Government were responsible for the creation of the Security Industry Authority, with which this matter would perhaps bear being the subject of some discussion. Of course, we have the benefit of having the chair of the authority on our Benches. I have no doubt that we can engage in further discussions with her and perhaps bring about a meeting of minds, because I think that there is an issue here.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that there is a particular issue with the nation’s railways, with the specialist press carrying many articles about photographers on the railway being harassed by officious security staff and sometimes station staff across the network? Will he draw the attention of the train operating companies and Network Rail to the excellent guidelines produced by the British Transport Police? They make it clear not only that photographers are welcome on the railway, but that they are also an aid to security, as they provide an extra set of eyes to spot when things are amiss.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I suspect that the practice at railway stations varies from place to place. I am aware of the issue because my daughter explained to me recently that one of her friends, who was doing a photography project, was prevented from taking photographs at Brighton station. To my mind, that seems rather odd. Railways are not public spaces in the same way as streets and footpaths are, but there is an issue here. We need to encourage a sensible approach, involving all bodies that provide public services.

Lord Forsyth of Drumlean: My Lords, are there not two sides to this? I support absolutely the freedom of the press to go about their business, but does not that freedom carry a certain responsibility? One sees regularly on television the atrocious behaviour of some paparazzi. I hope that the guidelines will be aimed also at the behaviour of photographers.

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, the noble Lord is right: photographers have to exercise a degree of common sense and try to work with people. Perhaps that is not the right way to put it, but it ought to be the case. Photographers have to act responsibly in the public domain. Most of them do, and we should encourage that.

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Gypsies and Travellers: 2011 Census

3.21 pm

Baroness Whitaker asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, it is not possible to confirm which questions and response categories will be included in the census until the consultation and question-testing programme is complete and formal approval has been given by Parliament in 2010. It is proposed, however, to include a category for Gypsies or Irish Travellers in an ethnic group question.

Baroness Whitaker: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reasonably positive Answer. Will the Government urge all service providers to adapt their ethnic minority monitoring categories so that, at last, we can learn more about the real situation of this most discriminated-against minority?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I pay tribute to my noble friend for the work that she has done on this issue. Although my reply is guarded because, obviously, there is still work to be done, I assure her and the House that the intention is to include a category for Gypsies and Irish Travellers, subject to final approval. This will also be a signal for all agencies to recognise this important categorisation.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I was pleased to hear the Minister’s confirmation of the statement made by Mr Ian Wright on 22 May about the inclusion of a tick-box for Gypsies and Travellers. Does the Minister agree that at the census content workshop in March, representatives of the Gypsies and Travellers, and of the CRE, were unanimous in asking for two separate categories to be included; namely, Gypsy and Irish Traveller? The only reason given by the ONS for not doing so was lack of space on the form. Will the Minister ask the ONS to divide the available space into two, using a smaller typeface if necessary, so that the two separate categories can be accommodated and local authorities will have the data that they need for their local development frameworks, in which Gypsies and Travellers have to be provided with separate land?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the House will recognise that space on the form is of great value, given the multitude of demands for information that the census alone can provide. That is why the decision was made to include one tick-box and not two, although I hear what the noble Lord says about his dissatisfaction with that. However, it is recognised that the addition of this category will help public policy in future and, on the whole, Gypsies and Travellers have welcomed this contention.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, does the Minister agree that, although it might be quite romantic to know about Gypsies, caravans and all that lovely stuff, they can be a massive problem for people who live in rural areas?

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