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Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, is there not a problem with an increase in emergency admissions which sometimes take up the intensive care beds so that people waiting for serious operations have to have them cancelled at the last minute? Is she also aware that there is a shortage of intensive care cots for babies throughout the country?

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, the noble Baroness is right when she says that we have seen a rise in emergency admissions. We are not sure why that is. There is a study going on at the moment which is just about to report to the Government. We shall follow that up. With regard to neo-natal admissions, the problem in those units often is that there is no criteria for admission. I know that some trusts are addressing that issue.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, will the Minister tell us how she reconciles her statement that there is a lack of scientific evidence about the situation, when this report was written by the best medical brains in Britain who were invited by the Government to do so? I refer to top class surgeons and anaesthetists. Secondly, will she kindly confirm that only one hospital in five in Britain has high dependency units?

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, when these committees do their work, they are often closely targeted on certain areas. In this case I believe that it went beyond the area one would normally consider. As I said, we welcome the report, but I have to say that there is no scientific evidence to support or refute its view.

Home Energy Efficiency Scheme

3.12 p.m.

Lord Ezra asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): My Lords, by changing the scheme so that over 60s, who are not on benefit, will be eligible for a 25 per cent. grant instead of 100 per cent. grant, we expect that the numbers of the most vulnerable who will be helped by the home energy efficiency scheme will remain at about the same level.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, I wish to declare that I am patron of NEA which is the charitable organisation that operates the scheme. Is the Minister aware that in the last Budget the scheme's funding was increased by £35 million for three years; and that within one year that sum has been effectively removed? Is he

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aware that as a result the homes of some 200,000 elderly people on low incomes will not be insulated in the coming year? Did the Government have that in mind when they removed the additional funding that they had originally provided?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the noble Lord is correct: £30 million was put into the scheme last year. It was added to the base line, which means that it continues for the second and third year as a base line. Clearly all schemes have to be reviewed. When the home energy efficiency scheme consisted of some £105 million out of a budget for the whole of energy efficiency of £140 million, it is difficult to see how it could have escaped being affected.

Lord Gray of Contin: My Lords, I wish to declare that I am president of Energy Action Scotland, a charity which administers the home energy efficiency scheme in Scotland. Does my noble friend accept that the charities which administer the scheme are not unmindful of the considerable help which they received from the Government in the last Budget, but that they are deeply concerned that, having given a commitment for a three-year period at £100 million per year, the cut at the end of the first year should be quite so savage? Is he aware that the effect of that cut in Scotland will be that 20,000 homes which would have been insulated will not now be insulated this year? Most of those homes are occupied by a not particularly affluent section of society but by pensioners who are living close to the line.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the commitment for the three-year period was a commitment to the addition to the base line. No government give a commitment as to what they will then fund three years ahead. As I explained, all these matters have to be considered when there are substantial cuts in public expenditure. The fact that there are cuts in public expenditure is a good thing. I would dispute, if I may, what my noble friend said about 20,000 houses not now being insulated. I do not know from where he gets that figure. The point is that those who are on benefit will continue to receive the 100 per cent. grant. Indeed some of your Lordships might have applied for the grant. Anyone over 60 could have applied for that grant. What we have done is to say that 25 per cent. will be available to anyone, irrespective of their means. Those who are the worst off will receive 100 per cent.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there are consequences other than the possibility of hypothermia for old aged pensioners? I refer to the loss of approximately 1,000 jobs for those engaged in insulating old people's homes. Moreover, at a time when we should be concerned about global warming, this is surely the wrong time to reduce our efforts in that direction and to allow energy to escape into the upper atmosphere.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the effect on jobs, if I may say so, is not relevant to the principle of energy efficiency. We are trying to help people who are old or infirm or on benefit to insulate their houses. I find

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it hard that the noble Baroness should suggest that people who might have incomes substantially above the minimum should also receive the benefit. As it is, they receive 25 per cent. of the benefit, and that enables us to target those for whom the noble Baroness is concerned; that is, the oldest and the poorest.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: My Lords, the Minister did not reply to the second part of my question.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I noted down that the noble Baroness referred to old age pensioners and the loss of jobs. I did not note down the third point.

Baroness Hilton of Eggardon: My Lords, the effect on global warming from the loss of heat into the upper atmosphere, which should be concerning us all at this time.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I realise what global warming is. My noble friend the Chief Whip was trying to advise me. All kinds of conditions apply and help or destroy global warming. In all we do, it is important that we should be conscious about conserving energy, but that does not mean to say that the Government have to foot everyone's bill. What they are prepared to do is to say that those who are the least able to meet that bill will be helped, while those who are more able to meet it and those who are very able to meet it can still be helped.

Lord Haskel: My Lords, what is the value of the three-year commitment if it can be broken at the end of the first year?

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the noble Lord, if I may say so, sometimes finds it a little difficult to accept the basic principle. The basic principle is that £30 million was going to be added to the base line. Last year that base line was £75 million, so it went up to £105 million. The base line for the second and the third years was also increased by £30 million. But, having said that, all factors in my department and throughout Whitehall have to be considered on their merits. We considered that giving public money to those who could afford it themselves was not the best way to spend public money. What we are trying to do is to give it to those who cannot afford it.


3.19 p.m.

Lord Strathclyde: My Lords, after the debate on a review of the regulation and operation of the privatised utilities and before the debate on the Learmont Review of Prison Service Security in England and Wales, my noble friend Lady Blatch will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is to be made in another place on the future of HMSO.

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Partial-birth Abortion (Prohibition) Bill [H.L.]

Lord Braine of Wheatley: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to prohibit partial-birth abortions. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.--(Lord Braine of Wheatley.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

Business of the House: Debates this Day

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the debates on the Motions in the names of the Lord Ezra and the Lord Rodgers of Quarry Bank set down for today shall each be limited to two-and-a-half hours.--(Viscount Cranborne.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Procedure of the House: Select Committee Report

3.22 p.m.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the First Report from the Select Committee be agreed to (HL Paper 8).--(The Chairman of Committees.)

Following is the report referred to:


    The committee has reviewed the three new procedures for Committees on legislation off the Floor of the House which were used last Session following the report of the Group on Sittings of the House (the Rippon Committee). The group recommended a number of ways of taking proceedings away from the Floor of the House.

    The committee notes that in the course of 1995 the House of Commons has implemented a number of the recommendations of the Committee on Sittings of the House (the Jopling Committee) (HC 20 (1991-92)), including sittings on Wednesday mornings, less business after 10 p.m. and taking more business off the Floor of the House. As a result, last Session the House of Commons rose on Mondays to Thursdays on average some 50 minutes earlier than in the previous Session and that House no longer sits on some 10 Fridays a year. With the more limited programme of reform proposed by the Rippon Committee, the House of Lords in the same period rose on average some 25 minutes earlier each day.

    The committee draws attention to these developments and hopes that further efforts will be made to sit for fewer hours and to rise earlier. We repeat the view we took a year ago that a significant improvement in the hours of sitting of the House can come only with general support throughout the House, and by agreement through the usual channels, and not by any decision of the committee (First Report, 1994-95).

    The committee makes the following observations and recommendations on the new procedures for Committees off the Floor.

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    1.The further experiments in Special Public Bill Committees ("the Jellicoe Procedure") were successful and we confirm the view which we took in 1994 after the first experiment that the procedures have proved a valuable addition to the scrutiny function of the House. We endorse our previous observation that the procedure should be used not only for Law Commission Bills but for other Bills.

    2.The experiment in taking the Committee stage of the Children (Scotland) Bill in the Moses Room under the procedure whereby Lords are not selected and any Lord may attend, speak and move amendments as if the Committee stage were taking place in the Chamber as a Committee of the Whole House also proved successful. Under the procedure no Divisions at that stage may take place. The procedure should be retained and used for suitable Bills.

    3.One or more further experiments should be held in the use of informal committees, on which the results of the experiment last Session were less clear. It will be for Ministers in charge of Bills to convene such committees on suitable Bills as and when the need arises.

    4.Special Public Bill Committees should be named (on report from the Committee of Selection) before Second Reading to enable the Members to agree a request for evidence and consider a programme of work at the earliest opportunity contingent on the Bill being committed to a Special Public Bill Committee. After Second Reading, the Committee will be appointed in the normal way with the 28-day period running from that date.

    5.Notice of those meetings of Special Public Bill Committees at which Bills are considered clause by clause should be given on the Order Paper.


    The committee was invited to re-examine the current Companion guidance concerning proceedings on Consolidated Fund Bills:

    "It does not offend the privileges of the Commons for the Lords to discuss or even to decide upon consolidated fund bills, but the House has habitually passed such bills without printing them and without discussion or dissent. It is now a convention that proceedings upon them are taken formally." (Companion, p124)

    We considered this matter in January and March 1993 (Second and Third Reports, 1992-93). On both occasions we confirmed the current guidance and our recommendations were agreed to by the House.

    After further consideration, the committee once again endorses the current guidance. We invite the House to agree to this conclusion and express the hope that a similar proposal will not be brought again before the committee.

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