|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
I should emphasise the other aspect that the noble Lord raised. The noble Baroness, Lady Gardner, and the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, were also concerned about why there was no statutory right of appeal if a mining waste facility were to be refused. A statutory right of appeal, as noble Lords will readily appreciate, would mean that a category A site could continue to operate without being in breach of Regulation 12(1), which prohibits operating without a permit. This would mean that an operator could continue to operate without having to ensure that the facility complied with the waste directive. For a site of any category, let alone one that poses the greatest risk of harm to the environment, it would not be tolerable for us to build in the length of time that inevitably would be involved in any right of appeal.
In the event of a permit being refused on the grounds that the operator has not provided the necessary additional information required by the emergency planning authority, the operator would have the right to apply for a judicial review of the planners' decision to issue the notice to the Environment Agency-or they could complain to the ombudsman. I appreciate from the tenor of the noble Baroness's remarks-and she was supported by the noble Earl, Lord Selborne-that my reply will not be satisfactory. However, that is the constraint on those who are taking the decision: they could be subject to the scrutiny, while balancing this against the obvious need to protect the public from difficult and dangerous waste by not allowing an appeal mechanism that could encompass what we would regard as a dangerous and deleterious delay. I recognise that these balancing factors are judgment calls on what needs to be done. I hope the noble Baroness, the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, and the noble Earl, Lord Selborne, will give credit to the Government by acknowledging that it is neither by omission nor arbitrariness that we alight on this approach: it is because we must have in mind the key principles of health and the environment.
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: The reason for our concern is that the implementation of almost all secondary legislation requires a sense of fair play and co-operation between those being regulated and the regulators. Obviously, there is considerable concern that the way in which these regulations are impacting on mineral extraction, which is a major industry in this country, could put the industry under considerable pressure if the regulators were dilatory or did not play their part in the process by assisting in the proper regulation of these sites. The industry is not looking for an exemption, but for a way of handling its obligations under the law. Are the Government truly tuned in to that sensitivity?
Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, indeed I am-as are the Government. We recognise the issues that arise around compliance. I say to the Committee that the industry has its interests, but we also have an obligation to the country that we serve to get these things right.
I shall merely mention the disasters that have occurred in the past and are never to recur because we have the necessary controls and requirements. To take the most obvious one, Aberfan was a tragedy of the most appalling kind because we did not have sufficient control over the regulation of waste management from the extractive industries. I know it is a long time ago now, and because it is in the distant past it may be thought that it is always straightforward to guard against such an event in future, but for that to be true the safeguards need to be in place. I recognise that on all fronts we have moved on a great deal from that time and we have regulations in place; I am merely indicating to the Committee that, in seeking to fairly represent the interests of the industry, we must take the greatest care that we do not in any way dilute the overall objectives of ensuring that practices are entirely safe. The Government are bound to recognise that as their major obligation and duty.
On the issue of the china clay industry, which the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, raised, we think that we have the balance right with regard to regulation in these circumstances. This partly relates to the question that the noble Lord, Lord Rennard, also raised about our comparative position to that of other states. I do not say for a moment that because Germany and Sweden, for example, have not seen any need to change their regulations, they are upholding lower standards than we are; they may meet the European directives and requirements and meet the standards that we do because they were already operating standards at that level so did not need to change. However, we are not in the business of comparative analysis with other countries, unless they can identify that the way that they are going about things is more cost-effective as well as meeting the standards of safety both for the environment and for people, which is what we ourselves are seeking. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Rennard, on this issue and on the point that the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, raised about china clay, that we think that we have the balance right, which is why we have presented the regulations in these terms.
I appreciate the concerns that have been expressed today. I will look at the record, and where I may have been remiss in responding-some of the points were very detailed-I will ensure that proper responses are made to Members. However, I emphasise once again that these regulations meet the standards that we expect with regard to our objectives. They do so as a streamlining exercise. They help us to protect the environment and human health and they are risk-based and proportionate, but they are considerably less diverse, less bulky, less onerous and easier to follow-despite the reservations that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, identified-and less costly. We estimate that the regulations will save business and the regulators £45 million over the next 10 years, and they may save both those in the industry and indeed parliamentarians some time in reading fewer pages than was the case with the regulations that they have replaced. They are also the product of partnership. We therefore feel that, after considerable consultation, we have the balance right.
That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Legislative Reform (Dangerous Wild Animals) (Licensing) Order 2010.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Davies of Oldham): My Lords, the draft order reforms the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, which governs the private keeping of dangerous wild animals, by reducing the administrative and financial burdens imposed on local authorities, who are responsible for enforcing the Act. The keepers of dangerous wild animals will also gain from the changes made through the effective halving of application fees and associated vets' bills over a two-year period and a reduction in the frequency of form-filling and inspections.
Further to an independent review of the Act's effectiveness in 2001 and subsequent consultations, the following proposals, intended to be in line with the Government's intention to deregulate whenever we can, were included in the draft order now before the Committee. The proposals extend the period of validity of a licence from a maximum of one calendar year to two, and provide that licences, other than licence renewals, will come into force immediately on their being granted rather than, as was previously the case, from either the date of grant or the beginning of the following year.
A further proposal to remove the mandatory requirement for inspections to be carried out in respect of certain applications for a replacement or second licence and to allow instead discretionary, targeted inspections was challenged by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee of this House when the original draft order was laid. The committee, which we hold in the greatest respect, was not satisfied that that proposal would preserve sufficiently well the Act's existing protections to the public.
We share the Committee's concern that all necessary protections in the 1976 Act should be maintained; indeed, a legislative reform order is not permitted to remove any such protection. Following further consultation with local authorities on that challenged proposal, it was clear that there was less appetite than previously thought for the flexibility the proposal was intended to provide. Of course, we have accordingly dropped the proposal and the revised draft order is before the Committee.
The surviving proposed changes contained in the draft order are ones with which the scrutinising committees of both Houses have pronounced themselves content as being changes that will lead to a reduction in the administrative and financial burden on both local authorities and the keepers of such animals while
2 Mar 2010 : Column GC385
Lord Taylor of Holbeach: My Lords, I thank the Minister for presenting the draft order. My notes also start with the interesting history of how it has come to be adjusted. Normally, we would welcome deregulation and the Government's intention in this respect, but it is clear that concern was expressed by local authorities that there would be no real saving to them if the original proposal went through. To give credit where it is due, the department took those opinions on board and dropped that proposal from the order. The most controversial element of the order has therefore disappeared from the table and I can see little to object to in the remaining two proposals.
We should join in congratulating the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee on its eagle-eyed scrutiny of the original draft. However, I should like the Minister to give us a little more detail about the consequences of proposal 2. The maximum period of a licence will be doubled to two years but, while I applaud the efforts to reduce red tape and bureaucratic interference, what efforts will the Government make to ensure that suitably rigorous standards of animal welfare and public safety are upheld under the new inspection regime?
I have two further forensic points to make; the Minister knows that I like to pick out a few queries. On page 2, under proposed new subsections (3) and (3A)(a) and (b), the licence validity is to be extended from one to two years. A further extension consequent to allowing a licence to continue beyond its expiry date because the renewal permission is not received before expiry should surely be limited to a fixed period. In other words, in a situation where the licence expiry period has overrun, it would start again from the renewal date and not from the date on which it should have originally expired. That seems to be anomalous.
Section 1(6)(a)(iv) of the Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976, which is to be found on page 20 of the Accompanying Statement, concerns insurance. At the moment, a licence lasts for a year and one of the conditions for it is that an animal keeper shall have insurance. We know that all insurance policies are renewed on an annual basis. How can local authorities ensure that a second year of insurance is in place? Will there be some sort of arrangement whereby the licence holder has to provide evidence that the animals have been reinsured? How does the new regime operate? I am all in favour of the two-year period of renewal, but we should be mindful of this provision for insurance. Other than for those points, we welcome the order.
Lord Rennard: I, too, thank the Minister and his team for the careful explanation of the process by which changes have been made to these orders. Having looked at the report, it seems that there is little to say beyond what is in it. However, we should note that the Select Committee on Regulatory Reform has done its job, the Government have listened, and so I shall say simply that the revised order has our support and we welcome it.
Lord Davies of Oldham: I am grateful to both noble Lords, although perhaps a little more grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Rennard, because he has not asked me any awkward questions. No doubt, however, he wants to hear the answers. First, I endorse entirely the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, about the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Select Committee and its eagle-eyed approach to all regulations, not just these. I hope that I paid due respect to the committee in my opening remarks. We are particularly grateful to the committee because its position was justified. On reflection, having looked at this matter again and after consultation, we could see the value of the points being made and have changed the position accordingly.
There are obvious anxieties about lengthening the period between inspections from one year to two. I assure the noble Lord, Lord Taylor, that the renewal date of a new licence, if granted, will commence from the original expiry date of the licence it replaces. Otherwise, as the noble Lord indicated, we would effectively be granting somewhat in excess of two years for the continuation of a licence. We accept that point entirely. Possibly I could have set out the position a little more explicitly in my opening remarks. If I did not, I apologise to the Committee and I am grateful to the noble Lord for drawing my attention to the matter.
We certainly want to bring the benefits of reduction of the impact of regulation to this area, not least because we have little cause for anxiety. I say this against a background where, not long ago, colleagues of mine playing the 17th hole of their favourite course were somewhat aghast to discover that what looked like a rather large Alsatian standing a little above them on a raised path beyond the green was not an Alsatian but a real live wolf. The wolf was subsequently arrested having done no harm to the golfers-who would harm a golfer? But then, who would harm a horse rider? The wolf disturbed a horse, which threw its rider. The Committee will recognise the anxiety expressed locally that the owner of two wild animals-which were kept near to a zoo but had nothing to do with it; the zoo is perfectly safe and has never given the slightest cause for anxiety-permitted one to escape. The Committee will be delighted to know that sufficient sanctions were enjoined to make sure that it does not happen again.
When I discussed this with my officials, they were full of the proper reassurances from recent documentation that no such mishap had occurred. However, there was a mishap a little further back and that is why these regulations are important. We need to make sure that animals are kept in good order and are looked after properly. By the same token, wild animals need to be kept under the necessary constraints to prevent them causing the most appalling harm if things go wrong.
The noble Lord also asked me for clarity on the issue of insurance. Following the last consultation, local authorities are clear that they are obliged to take their responsibilities under the Act seriously. Our emendations, which are designed to reduce regulation, do not mean that local authorities should be less rigorous in meeting their obligations on inspection; those obligations remain. As far as insurance is concerned,
2 Mar 2010 : Column GC387
That the Grand Committee do report to the House that it has considered the Extradition Act 2003 (Amendment to Designations) Order 2010.
Lord Brett: My Lords, the Extradition Act 2003 has played a vital role in ensuring that the UK's extradition relations with countries around the world work efficiently and effectively. Today, in an effort to further improve international co-operation, we seek to add Libya to the schedule of territories designated as extradition partners under Part 2 of the Act.
We are concerned here with further secondary legislation required to amend the Extradition Act 2003 (Designation of Part 2 Territories) Order 2010. This instrument affects the UK's extradition arrangements with Libya. This order reflects the fact that the UK and Libya have signed an extradition treaty and exchanged instruments of ratification. Designation of Libya as a category 2 country will enable the advantages of this agreement to be given full effect in the United Kingdom.
The extradition treaty between the UK and Libya, signed by the then Foreign Office Minister and the Libyan Minister for European Affairs in November 2008, is one of a package of measures designed to increase co-operation between the law enforcement agencies of our two countries. The package of measures also includes agreements on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, on prisoner transfer and on mutual legal assistance in civil and commercial matters. The measures will play an important role in improving judicial co-operation between the UK and Libya. They were an integral part of wider discussions with Libya to improve diplomatic relations between our countries.
The extradition treaty allows extradition to be requested for any offence that attracts a maximum penalty of at least 12 months' imprisonment in both the UK and Libya. The evidential requirements set out in the treaty mean that both the United Kingdom and Libya must provide a prima facie evidential case against any person whom they wish to extradite.
There are currently no formal extradition arrangements between the UK and Libya, outside a number of international conventions, to which we are both party, which deal with a limited number of specific offences concerning serious criminal conduct such as terrorism or drug smuggling. The introduction
2 Mar 2010 : Column GC388
One key advantage of the new arrangements is that they will improve our ability to achieve justice for British victims of serious crimes. The extradition treaty between the United Kingdom and Libya will provide both Governments with a sound formal framework for future co-operation. We are clear that we will not allow criminals to escape justice by crossing international borders, and we are committed to assisting our international partners to do the same.
The amendments are necessary to ensure that the United Kingdom can comply with its obligations under the bilateral extradition treaty with Libya. That is what the order seeks to achieve, and I urge noble Lords to support it. I beg to move.
Baroness Neville-Jones: My Lords, I thank the Minister for explaining the order. Does he agree that it is hardly acceptable that although the extradition treaty between the UK and Libya was signed on 17 November 2008 and ratified in April 2009, the Home Office was not informed until January of this year? That seems an extraordinary delay. Has the delay meant that the treaty has not taken effect up to this point? Presumably that must be the case. Have any extradition requests been received from Libya since November 2008? If so, what has been their fate?
I turn to the substance of the order. The Minister will be aware that concerns have been expressed by Members in this House and another place about the designation of countries as category 2 territories under the Extradition Act; and in particular the standard of proof that those countries are required to provide to justify their extradition requests. This is an area that I would like to probe. Under Sections 71(2) to 71(4) of the Extradition Act, a judge may issue a warrant if he has reasonable grounds for believing that there is evidence that would justify the issue of a warrant under his jurisdiction. However, in respect of category 2 countries, the Act specifies that information, rather than evidence, is to be provided.
The Minister mentioned the prima facie evidence requirement. However, Sections 84(7) and 86(7) qualify that for designated category 2 countries. Those sections state that in relation to requests from category 2 countries, the judge must ignore the efficiency of evidence or information test.
I am concerned and confused. At the extradition, may the judge take into account only human rights considerations and bars to extradition such as double jeopardy, passage of time and extraneous consideration? If that is the case, what is the meaning of "information"?
2 Mar 2010 : Column GC389
Can the prima facie case be re-established at the extradition hearing? Your Lordships' House debated these issues at length during the passage of the Policing and Crime Bill, and I will not rehearse the detail of old arguments, but at that time, I asked the noble and learned Baroness the Attorney-General whether a judge should not be able, at the point of the extradition hearing itself, again to establish the information being provided by category 2 countries in order to meet domestic standards. I fear that she did not, at that moment, give me an answer, but in this context, in relation to Libya, I would be grateful if the Minister could be explicit on that point. That is a simple check and safeguard, such as would increase public confidence in the extradition process. That would itself be valuable.
The Minister will be aware that another concern of many is the mission creep of extradition treaties. This treaty is limited to any offence which attracts a maximum penalty of at least 12 months both the UK and Libya, or where a sentence of at least four months' imprisonment has been imposed on conviction, as the Minister rightly said. However, Article 2(3) states that:
"For the purposes of this Article it shall not matter whether or not the laws of the Parties place the relevant conduct within the same categories of offences or denominate the offence by the same or similar description".
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|