|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Lord Rees of Ludlow: My Lords, I declare an interest as Astronomer Royal, and therefore as someone who could enhance his income hugely by becoming an astrologer and offering horoscopes. Does the Minister agree that, even though were we in India it might be appropriate to regulate astrology because government ministers there, one is told, are heavily guided by it, in this country to do so might imply that the problem has rather more seriousness that it really deserves?
Baroness McIntosh of Hudnall: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that we should indeed have no truck with pseudoscience? As it happens, I have some sympathy with the point that the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, raised about the teaching of science and mathematics. None the less, there are, as Hamlet observed,
and some very respectable branches of medicine were once alternative in their day. Therefore, it is important that we keep an eye on the things in which people invest confidence, and make sure, as my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley observed, that they do not cause harm.
Baroness Thornton: My noble friend is right. Complementary and alternative medicine therapies have proven to be effective, cost-effective and safe. Decisions about which treatments to commission and fund, for example, are the responsibility of the NHS locally, and indeed primary care trusts often have their own policies about funding complementary medicine such as osteopathy or chiropractic. Indeed, we are funding research into complementary therapies, for example in the care of cancer patients.
Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, I speak to the Minister as a fellow Libran. Is she satisfied with the quality of regulation of therapies such as psychotherapy? Is it still the case that anyone can set themselves up as a college of psychotherapy or any other therapy, and offer diplomas and apparent validation to practitioners whose skills may be negligible?
Baroness Thornton: My noble friend raises an important point, which the House has discussed in the past year. I had a huge postbag about that; I was inundated by suggestions from psychotherapists of all different kinds on this issue. My noble friend is quite right that there is an issue, and the department is looking at it.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the concerns about FADEC software and the general safety of Chinook helicopters expressed by the Ministry of Defence's Aircraft Testing Centre at Boscombe Down before 2 June 1994 were made available to and seen by Air Chief Marshal Wratten and Air Vice Marshal Day during their inquiry into the cause of the accident at the Mull of Kintyre.
The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): My Lords, first, I am sure that the whole House will wish to join me in offering sincere condolences to the family and friends of those killed in Afghanistan recently: Lance Corporal David Leslie Kirkness, 3rd Battalion The Rifles; Rifleman James Stephen Brown, 3rd Battalion The Rifles; Corporal Simon Hornby, 2nd Battalion The Duke of Lancaster's Regiment; Lance Corporal Michael Pritchard, 4th Regiment Royal Military Police; Lance Corporal Christopher Roney, 3rd Battalion The Rifles; Lance Corporal Tommy Brown, The Parachute Regiment; Rifleman Aiden Howell, 3rd Battalion The Rifles; Sapper David Watson, 33 Engineer Regiment (Explosive Ordnance Disposal); and Private Robert Hayes, 1st Battalion The Royal Anglian Regiment. I am sure that our thoughts are with their families and friends and, indeed, all those who are serving in Afghanistan.
Turning to the Question, the concerns expressed by technical experts at Boscombe Down were widely known. These concerns had been addressed in operating restrictions imposed by the initial release service for the Chinook mark 2. The air marshals both gave evidence to the House of Lords committee that they had been aware of questions raised about FADEC, but had discounted them as possible factors in the accident.
Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan: I thank my noble friend. I share her concern about the loss of servicemen's lives at any time, not least during the current struggle in Afghanistan. As chairman of the Mull of Kintyre Group, I am used to such replies as she has given us this morning. Is she aware that, since the findings of the inquiry conducted by Wratten and Day were, in effect, overturned by the Scottish fatal accident inquiry, grave doubts have been raised about the quality of the evidence that led to the far higher requirement of guilt that Wratten and Day were able to place on record against the service personnel? These concerns have never been satisfied. I ask the Minister whether she would be prepared to appoint a senior legal figure-a retired judge, for example-to assess all of the evidence that was before the original tribunal and anything that was not available at the time but has since come to hand, and to confirm that this higher level of proof of guilt of gross negligence can be justified. Until such assurances can be given, grave doubts will be raised by the families not only of the pilots and crew but also of the other men whose lives were lost in this dreadful tragedy.
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, my noble friend and everybody who has been involved in this issue have taken it extremely seriously. The fact is that the board of inquiry was properly conducted and properly reviewed. Many Secretaries of State for Defence and other Ministers have looked at this issue time and time again, as have chiefs of air staff. The simple point that we must reiterate is that no new evidence has been presented. The issue in my noble friend's Question was included in the Powers report that he himself was instrumental in submitting to the Secretary of State two years ago and which was looked at in great detail. In the absence of any new information it is not possible to raise any hopes that this inquiry can be revisited.
Lord Craig of Radley: My Lords, does the Minister agree that Air Chief Marshals Wratten and Day are men of great probity? I served with them when I was in the Royal Air Force. While I appreciate the great distress caused to the families of all who died, is not the fundamental point about this tragedy the standard of airmanship displayed in the vicinity of the Mull on a routine transit flight with many passengers on board?
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, I have to agree completely with the noble and gallant Lord. I was very open-minded about this issue when I looked at the information. It is very disconcerting to consider what happened on that day, but I am afraid that the judgment that it was about a fundamental standard of airmanship is the correct one.
Lord Lee of Trafford: My Lords, first of all can I enjoin these Benches in the earlier tribute to those who have been lost so sadly in Afghanistan? Just before Christmas, a number of us were engaged in querying aspects of the Haddon-Cave report into the tragic loss of the Nimrod in Afghanistan and discussing the Statement made to the House. Now the Chinook affair has flared up again. Developing the point that the noble Lord made a little earlier, would it not make sense for a truly independent commissioner to be appointed to consider any personal appeals in these types of situation, or the importance of any new evidence that may come along?
Baroness Taylor of Bolton: My Lords, it is important to recognise that the Haddon-Cave review made no criticisms of the board of inquiry procedures. There are very clear procedures laid down. When there is an accident of any kind, action is taken very quickly to set up the appropriate kind of inquiry. We should not hold out hope to people when there has been such an extensive inquiry, as there has been on the Mull of Kintyre incident. I have heard it described as the most extensively examined air crash in the history of British military aviation. There comes a point when we have to draw a line and accept the conclusions that have been arrived at.
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the House has just given a First Reading to the Video Recordings Bill, and of course I am delighted with that. This may therefore be a useful point for me to set out the Government's plans in relation to this Bill. With the agreement of the usual channels, the Government intend to fast-track this Bill through its stages in this House. Many of your Lordships will be aware that this is the first time that we have introduced a Bill with the
7 Jan 2010 : Column 209
One of the committee's key recommendations was that, for all Bills that are to be passed with unusual expedition, an explanation of the reasons for using a fast-track procedure should be provided. The Government accepted that recommendation, and in a Written Answer in December last year my noble friend the Leader of the House gave an undertaking that, for any future Bill being fast-tracked, the Explanatory Notes accompanying the Bill would contain a full explanation of the case for fast-tracking, addressing the key questions set out in the Constitution Committee's report. I am pleased to say that the Explanatory Notes accompanying this Bill, which will be printed tomorrow morning, address each of those questions.
The committee also recommended that when the Bill is introduced to the House, the Minister responsible be required to make a Statement outlining the case for fast-tracking. With the leave of the House, that is what I propose to do.
The purpose of the Video Recordings Bill is to repeal and revive the existing provisions of the Video Recordings Act 1984 to make the criminal offences in that Act enforceable. The 1984 Act established a system of age classification for video works administered by the British Board of Film Classification, together with a regime of criminal offences and penalties. The Bill does not introduce any new provisions or offences into the 1984 Act. The Act is simply revived without any substantive changes.
Noble Lords may be asking why it is necessary for us to do this. Unfortunately, the offences under the Act were made unenforceable because of a failure at that time to notify certain provisions of the 1984 Act in draft to the European Commission in accordance with the technical standards directive. This failure to notify was only discovered last August in the course of preparing the draft Digital Economy Bill which is currently before the House. The 1984 Act has now been notified to the Commission in accordance with the directive.
Until the 1984 Act is made enforceable, no new prosecutions can be made under the Act and prosecutors cannot oppose appeals made in time against convictions. This means that publishers of video games and DVDs can distribute their goods free of classification requirements and retailers can sell or supply classified and unclassified material to any person, regardless of age, with limited statutory powers to stop or prosecute them. The Government therefore are seeking to fast-track the Video Recordings Bill to restore the protection afforded to the public under the 1984 Act; the only certain way of providing the important public protections set out in that Act is to ensure that its provisions are made enforceable as soon as possible.
The Bill consists of only two clauses and one schedule. Clause 1 repeals the provisions of the 1984 Act and immediately revives them. Clause 2 relates only to the Short Title, commencement and extent of the Bill. The schedule sets out transitional provisions to ensure that the repeal and revival of the provisions of the 1984 Act do not change their effect or the effect of
7 Jan 2010 : Column 210
Finally, if I may detain the House just a few moments longer in my capacity as Deputy Chief Whip, it may be helpful if I set out the proposed timetable for the Bill agreed with the usual channels. We propose Second Reading as first business on Monday 18 January. That leaves the usual minimum interval of two weekends between First Reading and Second Reading. A list of speakers for the Second Reading debate is now open in the Government Whips' Office. We then propose to take Committee as last business on the same day, with Report and Third Reading being taken on Wednesday 20 January. This will allow the Bill to gain Royal Assent on Thursday 21 January. To assist the House in considering the Bill, the Public Bill Office will be accepting amendments in advance of Second Reading. I hope that the House will support the Government's approach and will also support the Bill.
Baroness Anelay of St Johns: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for outlining both the procedure and the policy with regard to the Bill. Earlier, during Question Time, the Leader of the House responded to questions about whether this House can react to changing circumstances to make sure that the Government are more accountable to the wishes of this House. The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, has today outlined the way in which the Government have responded to the request of this House to be more accountable in matters whereby expedited legislation is proposed by the Government, and responded in an appropriate manner. The House may believe that some matters outlined by the Minister would more normally and properly be outlined at Second Reading, and therefore he needed to take some time today because, in order for the Government to be accountable, some Second Reading comments had to be made. It was most helpful to hear about the policy and the difficulties encountered. I support everything that the Minister said and am sure that all noble Lords on the Benches behind me will wish public prosecutions to be reinstated, and for there to be no uncertainty with regard to matters subject to criminal prosecutions that could proceed as a result of the Bill.
Lord Elton: My Lords, the novel experience of hearing the usual channels justifying their decisions is very agreeable and welcome. I entirely support the intentions of the Bill. However, I reflect-this is the first occasion on which one has been able to do this-that we are denying ourselves an opportunity to give mature reflection to the standards that are enforced in the management of the video-games industry, and to the effect of these games on young people and society. That cost should have been taken into account by the usual channels when they agreed this procedure.
Clauses 1 to 6; Schedule 1; Clauses 7 to 31; Schedules 2 and 3; Clauses 32 to 38; Schedules 4 and 5; Clauses 39 to 52; Schedule 6; Clauses 53 to 80; Schedule 7; Clauses 81 to 83; Schedules 8 and 9; Clauses 84 to 88; Schedule 10; Clause 89; Schedule 11; Clauses 90 to 94; Schedule 12; Clauses 95 to 98; Schedule 13; Clause 99; Schedule 14; Clauses 100 to 106; Schedules 15 and 16; Clauses 107 to 115; Schedule 17; Clauses 116 to 148; Schedule 18; Clause 149; Schedule 19; Clauses 150 to 184; Schedule 20; Clauses 185 to 187; Schedule 21; Clauses 188 and 189; Schedule 22; Clauses 190 to 194; Schedule 23; Clauses 195 and 196; Schedule 24; Clauses 197 and 198; Schedule 25; Clauses 199 to 203; Schedules 26 and 27; Clauses 204 to 206; Schedule 28; Clauses 207 to 210.
Baroness Cox: My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who will be contributing to the debate at this critical time for Sudan. Tomorrow will be the fifth anniversary of the signing of the comprehensive peace agreement, which has brought some respite from the relentless war unleashed by the National Islamic Front regime after it seized power in 1989-a war that has resulted in 2 million people dead and 4 million displaced. Then the conflict in Darfur erupted, with hundreds of thousands killed, displaced, injured and still suffering in refugee camps. Now there are fears that the CPA will be breached and that the war against the south will be reignited; or that the country will implode, creating chaos and instability.
I will focus first on the urgent need to promote and protect the peace process, and for the international community to encourage all parties to adhere to the provisions regarding the census, the elections and the referendum; and on the need to prepare for the post-referendum scenario, whatever the outcome, and the critical issues of wealth-sharing and power-sharing agreements and security. I will deal, secondly, with the recent violations of the human rights of people in northern Sudan, including the arrest of opposition leaders in Khartoum; thirdly, with the continuing violence in southern Sudan; fourthly, the humanitarian crisis in many regions; fifthly, the continuing suffering of people in Darfur; and sixthly, the plight of people, including the Beja, in marginalised areas such as southern Blue Nile, Abyei, southern Kordofan and eastern Sudan; and finally, slavery.
I will briefly state my own interests. I first worked in Sudan as a nurse in a remote area of desert in northern Kordofan in the 1980s, establishing an immunisation programme in the small township of Hamrat-el-Wiz. After the war erupted in 1989, I returned 30 times to locations in Bahr-el-Ghazal, eastern and western Equatoria, the Nuba mountains, southern Blue Nile, eastern and western Upper Nile and the Kassala region. During that war, Khartoum would regularly announce airstrips open to the UN's Operation Lifeline Sudan and the closed locations. It would then carry out military offensives in the closed areas so that no one could take aid to the victims or tell the world what it was doing. I focused on those locations, incurring the NIF's displeasure and numerous threats, took aid to civilian victims and obtained evidence of atrocities perpetrated by the NIF, including massacres of civilians, destruction of livestock, villages and crops in a scorched earth policy, and the abduction of tens of thousands of women and children into slavery.
Since the CPA, the small NGO, HART-the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust-with which I now work, is establishing primary healthcare clinics and helping with agricultural programmes around Yei,
7 Jan 2010 : Column 213
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|