HL Deb 21 March 1983 vol 440 cc981-91

6.21 p.m.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. The purpose of this Bill is to enable the United Kingdom to ratify without reservation the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.

The convention was prepared under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency in recognition of the need for co-operation between states to ensure the adequate physical protection of nuclear material while in international transport and an effective framework for dealing with crimes involving such material. It follows the pattern of a number of other international conventions, including the Hague Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Seizure of Aircraft, usually known as the Hijacking Convention; the Montreal Convention for the Suppression of Unlawful Acts against the Safety of Civil Aviation; the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons, and more recently the Convention against the Taking of Hostages.

The convention was opened for signature on 3rd March 1980 in Vienna and New York, and was signed by the United Kingdom on 30th June 1980. It has been ratified by five states and signed by 28 others, as well as by Euratom.

It is not necessary to introduce legislation to deal with the first part of the convention, and in particular with the physical protection requirements of Articles 3 and 4. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Energy has a general responsibility under various Acts of Parliament which enable him to ensure compliance with the physical protection standards specified in the convention. These standards correspond to those set out in existing International Atomic Energy Agency guidance, to which the United Kingdom has adhered since it was first produced in 1972.

Article 7 obliges a state to ensure that certain acts are punishable offences, and Articles 8 to 12 require the establishment of jurisdiction over such offences wherever they occur; and in the event of such cases a state must either submit the case for prosecution in its courts or extradite the alleged offender. The objective is to ensure, as far as possible, that the perpetrator of such an offence does not find a safe haven in another country. We would regard extradition as the most practicable and appropriate course where the offence had occurred abroad.

Fortunatey, the physical protection standards adopted in 1972 have helped to ensure that so far we have not had to deal with any incident involving the use, or threatened use, of nuclear material either in the United Kingdom or, as far as I am aware, elsewhere, apart of course, from obvious hoaxes. However, we must recognise that the very nature of nuclear material makes effective physical protection essential. It is also essential for countries to co-operate together to ensure the prevention of offences and the detection and punishment of offenders.

The present Bill follows the pattern of earlier legislation which has enabled us to ratify the other conventions to which I have referred. It may assist your Lordships if I briefly outline its main provisions and explain how we have attempted to implement the requirements of the convention. The convention requires states to make punishable under their own law certain acts when they are committed in relation to or by means of nuclear material; it also requires them to assume a wide jurisdiction over these acts so that offenders cannot escape justice by crossing international frontiers. The acts which the convention requires us to make punishable can be divided into two groups: those which already constitute offences under United Kingdom law and those for which our law has no direct equivalent.

The first group is the larger. All that has been necessary in respect of offences in this category is to assume extraterritorial jurisdiction over them when they are committed abroad in relation to or by means of nuclear material. This is achieved by Clause 1 of the Bill. Let me illustrate the way in which it will work. The convention requires the United Kingdom to make punishable the international commission of an act without lawful authority which constitutes the use or handling of nuclear material and which causes substantial damage to property. This, of course, is already covered by our offence of criminal damage, and, therefore, no new offence needs to be created. All that Clause 1 does in this case is to extend the application of the offence so that it covers its commission outside the United Kingdom in connection with nuclear material.

Those acts for which there is no precise equivalent offence in United Kingdom law are in the main dealt with in Clause 2 of the Bill. These acts comprise certain preparatory acts or threats which, because nuclear material is involved, are sufficiently serious to attract criminal sanctions. By way of example, subsection (2) of this clause would enable us to deal with persons who deal with nuclear material with the intention of committing a serious offence against the person or property with it. The offences created by this clause are punishable on conviction with a maximum term of imprisonment not exceeding that available on conviction of the substantive offence contemplated or threatened and subject to an overriding maximum of 14 years' imprisonment.

Perhaps I may also say a few words at this point on the question of jurisdiction. The convention requires signatories to ensure they have jurisdiction over the offences it covers when they are committed in their territory or on board one of their ships or aircraft, and when the alleged offender is one of their nationals, as well as when the offence has been committed elsewhere than in their country but the alleged offender is found in their territory and they do not extradite him. Of course, the law of the United Kingdom is based on the territorial principle. Historically, our courts have jurisdiction over any crime committed here, or, with certain exceptions, on our ships and aircraft; but in general they do not have jurisdiction over offences committed abroad even by United Kingdom nationals, and certainly not over foreign nationals.

There are, however, a small but growing number of offences which have arisen out of international conventions and in respect of which the United Kingdom has agreed with other nations that their seriousness in conjunction with their international character merits special measures. Hijacking and the taking of hostages are obvious examples. This Bill, therefore, follows the precedent of previous measures by creating what is, in effect, worldwide jurisdiction over the relevant offences. It is, of course, our usual practice to extradite offenders who have committed offences abroad, and we would continue to do so wherever possible. It is unlikely, therefore, that this jurisdiction will very often be exercised.

Clause 3 provides that the consent of the Attorney-General in England and Wales and the Attorney-General for Northern Ireland in that Province shall be required for the prosecution of an offence which is created by the Bill. It also provides for the jurisdiction of the courts in Scotland. The references in brackets to the Internationally Protected Persons Act 1978 and the Suppression of Terrorism Act 1978 are necessary to ensure that the consent of the Attorney-General is required before proceedings are begun for offences under the Bill which overlap with offences created by those Acts; for example the offence of manslaughter of a protected person anywhere outside the United Kingdom created by Section 1 of the Internationally Protected Persons Act 1978 overlaps with the offence of manslaughter by means of nuclear material outside the United Kingdom created by Clause 1. Clause 4(1) makes a consequential amendment to the 1978 Acts which similarly closes the same loophole which would otherwise arise in respect of them.

Clause 4(2) adds the offence created by Clause 2 to those listed in the schedule to the Visiting Forces Act 1952 and will give the primary right of jurisdiction to the service courts of the visiting force in respect of Clause 2 offences when a person charged is connected with a visiting force. The offences covered by Clause 1 are already scheduled to the 1952 Act. Finally, subsection (3) adds offences created by Clause 1 of the Bill to Schedule 4 of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1978. Clause 5 is designed to give effect to Article 11 of the Convention, which requires that the offences should be extraditable between states parties to the agreement. Subsection (1) adds the offences created by Clause 2 to the list of extradition crimes in the Extradition Act 1870 and to the list of relevant offences under the Fugitive Offenders Act 1967, which provide bases for extradition with respectively foreign states and Commonwealth countries and dependent territories.

Subsection (2) provides for the Extradition Act to be applied to states which are party to the convention but with which we have no extradition treaty. A request for extradition will be considered in accordance with the usual procedures and the traditional safeguards will still apply. Subsection (3) would allow extradition to be granted under the provisions of the Extradition Act 1870 for offences committed outside the territory of the requesting state in circumstances where that state claims jurisdiction similar in scope to that provided for in Clause 1. A similar provision in relation to the Fugitive Offenders Act 1967 is not needed because under that Act a fugitive may be returned for an offence committed in a third state.

Clause 6, read in conjuction with the schedule, provides the definition of nuclear material to which the legislation applies by reference to Article 1(a) and (b) of the Convention. The definition covers all forms of uranium except natural ore and any form of uranium with less than the natural proportion of fissile isotopes, and all plutonium except that which is used to power heart pacemakers. The countries concerned with the preparation of the convention decided to limit its application to material used for peaceful purposes, acknowledging that nuclear material used for military purposes is already subject to very stringent physical protection. We have accordingly followed the convention and limited application of the legislation only to material used for peaceful purposes.

The question of whether or not nuclear material was or was not used for peaceful purposes may be pertinent particularly in connection with the prosecution of an offence alleged to have been committed outside the United Kingdom. Subsection (2) of Clause 6 recognises that there may be difficulties of proof by providing that a certificate of the Secretary of State shall be conclusive evidence of the fact that the material was or, as the case may be, was not used for peaceful purposes. If the Secretary of State considers necessary he will be able to take account of views expressed by the state in which the offence is alleged to have been committed, and those of the International Atomic Energy Agency and national authorities, before issuing any certificate.

Clause 7 makes provision concerning the application of the Bill's provisions to the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, and dependencies. Clause 8 gives the short title and provides that entry into force be set by Order in Council. I hope your Lordships will agree to this Bill so that we may be able to ensure that we can co-operate effectively with other countries in the physical protection of nuclear material. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time—(Lord Elton.)

6.36 p.m.

Lord Boston of Faversham

My Lords, I should like to welcome the Bill and to thank the Minister, the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for explaining its provisions to your Lordships. It is in some respects a somewhat technical measure, and the Minister has spelt out the details with his customary clarity. The Bill is welcome because it represents, if it is not inapposite to put it in this way, one more weapon in our necessary armoury for combating terrorism and indeed other crimes which have no terrorist connection.

It is perhaps worth pointing out, too, that this measure is receiving widespread, or even universal, support, subject of course to anything that the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, with his scientific interests and expert knowlege, may have to say. I feel it would be right to say here that, as I had occasion last Monday to be somewhat critical of the Government for what we on this Bench regarded as the delays in reviewing and reforming another piece of anti-terrorist legislation, the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act 1976, it is only fair and right that the Government should be commended for the speed with which they have acted over the convention on the physical protection of nuclear material and in introducing the Nuclear Material (Offences) Bill.

We have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Elton, that the United Kingdom signed the convention in June 1980, only three months after it was opened for signature, and now we have the legislation with, I believe, the Government's promise that this country will ratify the convention immediately this Bill receives Royal Assent. Perhaps while to those less familiar than some with the workings of the machinery for getting international action that might not seem spectacularly fast, in fact it is not a bad rate of progress at all. Indeed, it is highly commendable.

There is one point I should like to ask the Minister about on this particular aspect of the matter. He has already indicated that five states have so far ratified the convention and that 28 others have signed, and that it will come into force only after 21 states have ratified it. It is clearly desirable that action to counter terrorism should be as speedy as possible, and I wonder whether the Minister could tell us whether any follow-up action is being taken by, for instance, the International Atomic Energy Agency or in some other way through the United Nations; and whether, once we have ratified, the United Kingdom will be joining in any steps to try to get other nations to act quickly and to ratify the convention. I appreciate the difficulties about this, and I hope too that it is not unfair to ask a Home Office Minister about this matter as it is perhaps more a matter for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Any action which can be taken to speed up further ratifications will clearly be very welcome indeed.

There was some discussion in another place about the fact that the Bill deals with offences relating to nuclear materials used for peaceful purposes—as the Minister indicated tonight—and a query was raised about whether we needed new legislation to cover offences in relation to the use of nuclear materials for defence, warlike or non-peaceful purposes. Perhaps that matter needs further clarification, We bear in mind, of course, that a main purpose of the Bill is to cater for the international dimension involved in criminal acts relating to nuclear materials used for peaceful purposes; that is, to enable us to prosecute offenders here for offences committed abroad—those would normally be our own nationals, one would assume—or to extradite offenders who had taken refuge here, having committed offences abroad.

It has also been made clear that the Bill creates new offences hitherto unknown to our domestic law, enabling us to deal with offences committed in this country. The question which arises out of that, but which was either not spelt out in this way or not dealt with in quite this form in another place, relates to acts involving nuclear materials used for defence purposes; namely, whether we need legislation enabling us to deal with offences committed here under our domestic law.

In another place it was stated that so far as defence or warlike materials were concerned, the existing law would need to be used to cope with any offences committed. But it looks on the face of it a trifle paradoxical if our domestic law is adequate to cope with materials used for defence purposes yet is not adequate to cope with some crimes—I am talking of those committed here and to be tried here, so having no international dimension—relating to materials used for peaceful purposes. Let me make it clear that I am not asking about offences committed abroad in relation to defence materials. For one thing, it would hardly be realistic to expect other countries to provide evidence about their defence uses of such materials anyway, especially when there would be obvious difficulties about obtaining from them evidence to be adduced before our courts here about the materials used peacefully. No doubt there is a simple answer to that question.

We need to be satisfied that we have at our disposal all the means necessary to deal with offenders involved in acts relating to all kinds of such materials, defensive as well as peaceful, and I take the Minister's point when he says, in relation to materials used for defence purposes, that there are very stringent physical controls to keep them safe; but they do not necessarily protect us from all kinds of acts to get hold of those materials. Therefore, I join the noble Lord, Lord Elton, in supporting the Bill and in hoping that your Lordships will give it a speedy passage, and so make one further contribution to the battle against terrorists and other criminals.

6.44 p.m.

Lord Flowers

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, for the clarity with which he presented this technical Bill, and I am happy to speak following the noble Lord, Lord Boston, because the measure is an unfortunate necessity and therefore we on this Bench also support it. I wish I could simply stop there; your Lordships would be pleased for once by my brevity. There remain, however, some cautionary remarks with which I feel I must detain the House, and a question to ask the Minister.

I think it is understood in your Lordships' House that I am a proponent of nuclear power, albeit a cautious one. My caution has little to do with the technology. It derives from the fact that the nuclear industry, when it meets with a problem which lies outside its competence, sometimes behaves as if the problem does not exist. For many years it behaved as if the dangers from the illicit diversion of fissile materials were negligible, even to the extent of relaxing physical controls over their storage and movement. They protested forcefully when it was said that international trade in fissile material might soon become an important part of our economy, and that existing safeguards might prove inadequate for its proper control. We know from the Sizewell inquiry that this trade is already under way.

For many years the nuclear industry denied that nuclear weapons could be made from civil grade plutonium, even though for a decade it had been known that they could. I think they honestly believed that terrorism could never be sophisticated enough to represent a threat to their industry or to create from its products a threat to the public. They argued that there were easier games for terrorists to play, such as blowing up tankers of chlorine or messing about with botulin. They were right. But it is precisely because so many people have an exaggerated fear of all things nuclear that a nuclear threat might seem to attractive. To the deranged mind of the terrorist, seeking maximum publicity might be more important than taking the easy route.

In the mid-1970s some of us in different parts of the world expressed concern about that, and physical security is now very much better, in the United Kingdom at any rate. However, it is not enough to trust one's own industry. Fissile material can be stolen in one country, fabricated into some kind of device in a second and used to threaten a third; or at least that chain of events can be simulated and sufficient threat created thereby. It is, in other words, an international problem, now recognised as such by many countries. The Vienna Convention of 1980 is the result and this Bill is intended to enable us to ratify that convention. I welcomed the convention, and I therefore support the Bill.

There is one respect on which the noble Lord, Lord Boston, thought the Bill might be said not to go far enough, and I am inclined to agree with him. I am concerned with another matter where perhaps the Bill does not go far enough, and it is on that that I have a question for the Government. In the schedule to the Bill the phrase "nuclear material" is defined, in accordance with the convention, to mean plutonium or uranium, enriched or otherwise, or some mixture of those. There are, of course, other nuclear materials not covered by that definition which might seem more or less attractive to a terrorist. Remember, the terrorist is concerned to play on the public perception of danger; he may himself share that perception.

I do not want to suggest that a terrorist stands much chance of acquiring fissile material, but if he did, he might represent a serious threat. The Bill, if enacted, will, therefore, declare him to be a particulary dangerous sort of criminal. Nor do I think it likely that he would be able to acquire any dangerous amount of nuclear waste or, if he did, that he would know how to use it as a threat. What concerns me is that if a terrorist acquired some nuclear waste, he would not be a criminal under the Bill because nuclear waste is not defined as nuclear material in the schedule. I presume he would be a criminal of some kind, but not under the Bill because not under the convention.

Is the Minister satisfied that sufficient powers exist to deal with someone who possesses, or purports to possess, nuclear waste and uses that as a threat? The effect on the public of a threat to use nuclear waste in some kind of weapon might be just as great as the threat to use fissile material. The public might at least be reassured to know that both were regarded with similar disapproval.

The Vienna Convention is quite unusual, as the Minister explained, because it defines a new class of international crime; namely, crimes for which the criminal is denied safe haven wherever in the world he may be, wherever he has committed his crime and whatever his nationality. Nuclear crimes as here defined, are therefore similar to war crimes, to genocide, to piracy on the high seas, to the hijacking of aircraft and to the kidnapping of diplomats; I believe to no other.

I make no complaint if that is what is required to deter the illicit diversion of nuclear materials, but I do confess to sadness that such measures should be required to safeguard something as fundamental as energy supply. Can one imagine what life would be like if such extraordinary measures had to be imposed to safeguard oil or coal? Nobody would doubt that it would seriously affect some aspects of our ordinary lives.

In nuclear materials we are dealing with commodities that have not yet become commonplace, and that probably never will be commonplace in the sense of being handled by any but a few highly trained people; so we are not sure whether we are approaching a slippery slope or not. The nuclear industry in seeming to present a threat to our way of life is not unique. Your Lordships have recently been debating the Data Protection Bill—and what a minefield that is proving to be. Nor is it the first time that the issue of civil liberties has been raised in the struggle between energy and the environment. According to the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, speaking in this House in 1892, to administer a smoke-control law which covered domestic fires would require an extension of the inspectoral system, which would frighten the most enthusiastic advocate of modern legislation. Conceive of an inspector going to every house in London and seeing that the grate was properly fitted in order not to emit smoke. The burden of itself would be worse than the London fog". Even Prime Ministers, it seems, sometimes exaggerate.

The point I want to make—I hope without exaggeration—is that the implications for our civil liberties of the legislation required to safeguard us from the misuse of nuclear materials are beyond the competence of the nuclear industry to pronounce upon; and we should therefore beware when they behave, as they do, as if the problem did not exist.

It was in the Sixth Report of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, Nuclear Power and the Environment, that public reference was first made in this country to the possible conflict between nuclear power and civil liberties. In the course of a chapter devoted to security matters we said in paragraph 335, the following: We are confident that the security hazards associated with the present level of nuclear development in the United Kingdom are now fully appreciated by the Government…and that the security measures…are adequate for present circumstances. We have no doubt that these measures will be periodically reviewed, and if necessary strengthened.…However, a flexible response to security risks in the light of events is one thing; it is quite another to question whether the hazards of nuclear development in the future could become so great that adequate security could not be ensured, or alternatively whether the implications of the security measures needed could become unacceptable to society.". We concluded: We cannot see that the present system by which decisions are reached on nuclear development allows us to address ourselves to such questions". That was published in 1976 and we were roundly condemned at the time; but I see no reason to retract one word of it, or of the chapter, in which it occurs, which was entitled "Security and the safeguarding of plutonium". By putting forward this Bill, the Government have acknowledged the reality of some of the physical risks associated with nuclear developments. I congratulate them on having done so. But they have yet to examine in any serious way the implications for our civil liberties—which may be large or may be small—of the measures required to safeguard us against the prostitution of nuclear power. The Bill before us may be worthy of study from that point of view also.

6.55 p.m.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

My Lords, may I join noble Lords who have spoken earlier in this debate in supporting this Bill. I should like to join the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, in congratulating the Government on the speed with which they have dealt with these important national and international matters on the basis of the convention. Also I ought to apologise to the noble Lord, Lord Elton, because I was not in my place when the debate started; although I arrived at the Palace of Westminster at 9.15 this morning and had no idea that things were moving with such speed.

As the noble Lord, Lord Boston has indicated, I was at first a little troubled about whether the Bill would be adequate for the purposes of dealing with misuse of nuclear material in the course of defence. The basic theme of the convention is to deal with nuclear material in the course of its peaceful use. I examined rather carefully the extent of Clauses 3, 4 and 5 and it seemed to me that the Government had gone a long way in amending the Internationally Protected Persons Act, the Suppression of Terrorism Act, adding to the schedule of the Visiting Forces Act 1952 and also amending the Extradition Act 1870 and the Fugitive Offenders Act 1967.

Perhaps there is a lacuna in the use of the material for defence purposes, but the Government are to be congratulated on expanding our law to such an extent. These offences relating to nuclear material are of grave national and international concern. I do not propose to follow the interesting speech of the noble Lord, Lord Flowers, and therefore I will only say that from these Benches we strongly support this Bill.

6.57 p.m.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I should like to start by thanking the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, for his generous recognition of the basis on which we have approached this matter and to thank the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran. It is nice to see him with us supporting this Bill. If I may be brief, I would respond to Lord Boston's first point by saying that, although this Bill will put us in a position to ratify the convention, we shall be able to do so only when our partners in Euratom are also ready. Therefore, we have been consulting with them in an effort to ensure that the process of ratification is as rapid as possible. The IAEA itself will monitor progress by member states and we hope that our example will encourage other countries to take action.

The noble Lord, Lord Flowers, spoke to us with the authority which his distinguished career and specialist knowledge confers upon him—as chairman, among other things, of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution but also in other respects. He has noted that the definition of "nuclear material" in the Bill excludes nuclear waste. I would hesitate before venturing into a subject in which he has such expertise, but I am assured that, while nuclear waste is highly toxic, it is no more dangerous than many other materials which can be readily obtained such as the chlorine to which he referred.

For the sake of completeness, however, I should mention that the Bill covers spent or irradiated fuel from nuclear power reactors. This category of material is often referred to (erroneously, I believe) by laymen as nuclear waste. What I said does not in any way gainsay what he has said about the reality of public perceptions of the dangerousness of material. The scope of the Bill is limited by the convention which it will implement. As I shall explain, I do not think that there are any significant gaps in our law which would justify us asserting jurisdiction beyond that provided for in the convention, which, as the noble Lord, Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran, has said, is already extensive.

My explanation will I hope give the noble Lord, Lord Boston of Faversham, the assurance that he asked for as his second point, that our domestic law is adequate to deal with an offence in relation to material used for military purposes. If a person does any of the acts referred to in Clauses 1 and 2 of this Bill in this country in relation to or by means of any nuclear material not covered by the Bill, he will almost certainly be committing a criminal offence.

So far as the acts referred to in Clause 1 are concerned, these are already offences when committed in this country. Thus, if a person steals any nuclear material he will be committing an offence under the Theft Act. If he injures someone or damages property by means of such material he will be liable to prosecution under the Offences Against the Person Act or the Criminal Damage Act. There is therefore no loophole here so far as acts committed in this country are concerned. The only difference is that Clause 1 gives our courts jurisdiction to deal with offences committed outside the United Kingdom. Such jurisdiction will not exist in relation to offences connected with nuclear material outside that defined in Clause 6. Again, however, this does not really represent a loophole since all of the offences in Clause 1 are extraditable. If someone commits one of these offences outside the United Kingdom, therefore, and then comes here, we will generally be able, in accordance with our usual practice, to extradite him to the country where he committed the offence so that he may be prosecuted there.

Turning to Clause 2, most of the acts covered here are not at present criminal offences in this country, and it is true, therefore, that if, for example, someone holds nuclear material intending to injure with it, or being reckless as to whether injury may be caused, he will not be committing a specific offence. It is, however, I think, almost inconceivable that he will have come by the nuclear waste lawfully, and he will almost certainly therefore be liable to be prosecuted for theft and for any related offences which he may have committed in the process of obtaining the material. As for the making of threats, it is already an offence to threaten to kill or to do damage, so again it will not matter whether or not the nuclear material comes within the definition, although there is at present no general offence of threatening to cause serious injury.

I hope I have said enough to demonstrate to the noble Lord, Lord Flowers—as he wished—that the Government regard those who misuse nuclear waste with a disapproval similar to that expressed in this Bill in relation to those who misuse the materials described in its schedule—at least sufficiently to persuade him and the rest of your Lordships to give this Bill a Second Reading.

Lord Lloyd of Kilgerran

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, may I ask him whether the Government will consider giving wide publicity to this Bill? As the convention points out, offences relating to nuclear material are a matter of very grave concern. In view of the width and care with which this Bill has been prepared by the Government, it seems to me that in the public interest it may be a good thing, from my insular way of looking at matters, if good publicity were given to this Bill so that the public understands the kind of extensive steps that the Government are taking in dealing with this matter of such grave concern.

Lord Elton

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for his intervention. It is our intention to see that this Bill is well known.

On Question, Bill read a second time, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.

House adjourned at five minutes past seven o'clock.