HL Deb 25 November 1969 vol 305 cc1185-90

2.54 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Baroness Scrota.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The EARL OF LISTOWEL in the Chair.]

Clause 1 [The National Radiological Protection Board and its functions]:

On Question, Whether Clause 1 shall stand part of the Bill?


I should like to take this opportunity again of saying how grateful I was to the noble Baroness, Lady Serota, for explaining the Bill to us on Second Reading and, in particular, for giving the assurances that the Government do. in general, continue to respect the Haldane principle and that it is not their intention that directions given by Health Ministers should prejudice the scientific judgment or advice of the new Board. I am glad that scientific advice will be fully respected. I am, however, still a little confused about the status of the Ministry of Technology and the Department of Education and Science in regard to these services.

Owing, I fear, to some failure in communications—it is not the first in recent weeks and it is certainly not the fault of the noble Baroness, Lady Serota—I have only just received the noble Baroness's letter on the subject, and I think your Lordships might like to hear from her personally what the position is in regard to MINTECH and D.E.S. As your Lordships know, the Medical Research Council is the concern of the Department of Education and Science, and the Atomic Energy Authority is the concern of the Ministry of Technology. Am I right in thinking that these two Departments will now no longer be concerned with these protection services and that Health Ministers will deal direct with the new Board after consulting the M.R.C. and the A.E.A. in accordance with Clause 1(6) and (7), and indeed Clause 2(1)?

I should like to ask the noble Baroness whether the financial support for these services will now be transferred to the Social Services Vote? From looking quickly at her letter I think the noble Baroness may now be able to answer us on this point. This Bill is complicated because so many Departments are concerned. I thought MINTECH and D.E.S. were not concerned, but we may be told that they are.

Secondly, I wonder whether the noble Baroness can also give me a reply to the question which I addressed to her on Second Reading with regard to the role of these protection services in the event of a nuclear war. I imagine—and my noble friend Lord Brooke of Cumnor will no doubt confirm this—that in that case the Home Office will be involved in a co-ordinating role with all the other Departments concerned. I do not think it worth while to put down Amendments to the Bill covering all these points, although there may be further thoughts on this when the Bill gets to another place. It has come to your Lordships first. However, I should be grateful to the noble Baroness if she would let us have the views of the Government on these two points.


I am grateful to have this opportunity of apologising to the noble Earl for the failure in communications. As I believe he knows and understands and accepts, I myself checked whether he was to be in the House in order to receive the letter giving him the answers I had promised on Second Reading, and although I was assured that he would be receiving the letter, in fact I heard from him just before the House met to-day that he had had it in his hand only on coming here for this particular stage of the Bill. I apologise and hope that he accepts the apology that I have given him both personally and now here, publicly, in the House.

As the noble Earl said, Clause 1 is somewhat complex, and I undertook to inform him of the relative responsibilities of the different Departments of State involved in the new organisation. The position is that the main Parliamentary grant to the Board will come from my right honourable friends the Secretary of State for Social Services and the Secretary of State for Scotland. The Ministry of Technology, to which he referred, and the Department of Education and Science are also concerned because they are responsible for the Parliamentary grants to the Atomic Energy Authority and the Medical Research Council respectively. As I think the noble Earl indicated, the Medical Research Council and the Atomic Energy Authority will each be making a substantial contribution to the income of the Board, and all these bodies are of course involved in the work of the new authority.


Before the noble Baroness moves from that point, I wonder whether, perhaps later, we could have a breakdown of the extent to which these services will be supported financially by MINTECH and D.E.S., and the extent to which they will be supported by the Health Ministers. It would be interesting to know exactly what the proportions are in regard to financial support.


I cannot, of course, give the noble Earl and the Committee the financial information off the cuff. If I cannot get it in time for our discussion to-day I will send it to him, and on this occasion I think I had better deliver it to him personally, in view of the previous failure of communications.


Or perhaps give it on Report stage.


I should like to be quite clear that what he would like is a clear statement of the amounts of money involved and which particular Departments they are coming from.




May I continue with the noble Earl's second point, which related to what I regard as a rather sombre situation to contemplate? He asked what the position would be in the event of a nuclear incident or disaster, and asked me to confirm, which I readily do, that the Home Secretary will be the Minister responsible for co-ordinating Ministerial action in this field. There would of course be many Departments who would have a very important role to play in what must inevitably be comprehensive and interrelated contingency plans for any credible emergency. The services and advice of the new Board which this Bill establishes would, of course, be at the disposal of all the Ministers concerned, under the co-ordinating authority of the Home Secretary, and would clearly have a very important, and indeed a major, part to play in advising the Government.


I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that information, which certainly goes a long way to meet my points, but I hope she will be able to give me a little more information, perhaps on Report stage, on the proportions of financial support coming from each Department.

Clause 1 agreed to.

Clause 2 [General provisions about the Board]:

BARONESS SEROTA moved Amendment No. 1: Page 3, line 38, after ("from") insert ("income tax and").

The noble Baroness said: The first Amendment to Clause 2 is to give the Board exactly similar exemptions to those granted already to the Atomic Energy Authority by the first part of Section 6(2) of the Atomic Energy Authority Act. It is a matter we picked up on further consideration, and I hope the Committee will readily accept it. I beg to move.


So far as I can make out—again I have only just received these Amendments—this change makes sense if indeed it brings the new Board into line with the Atomic Energy Authority. Subject again to any further thoughts in another place, I certainly accept both the Amendments on the Paper.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

BARONESS SEROTA moved Amendment No. 2: Page 4, leave out lines 3 to 9.

The noble Baroness said: I am much encouraged by the fact that the noble Earl has accepted this Amendment before I have even moved it. For the Record, I should perhaps explain that this particular Amendment relates to the Board's pension schemes, a matter which we discussed on Second Reading; and as I then assured the House, and now reassure the Committee, it is intended that the Board's staff will either join the Atomic Energy Authority's pension scheme or continue in their existing schemes. If the Board does set up a scheme, it is intended that it should conform to present practice with regard to tax relief. With those few words of explanation, I beg to move.

On Question, Amendment agreed to.

Clause 2, as amended, agreed to.

Remaining clauses and Schedules agreed to.

House resumed: Bill reported, with the Amendments.