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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.
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
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
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.
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.
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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