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Lord Rowallan: My Lords, as the number of deaths from HIV has halved in the past 12 months, there are many more people with HIV living in the country today. With more than 1,500 people visiting the centre every week, should not something more than a loan be provided to allow the centre to continue?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, as I said in my original reply, my honourable friend the Minister for Public Health has, in principle, agreed the substantial Section 64 grant to the London Lighthouse to enable it to continue precisely those services to support people with HIV who are living in the community. The question is where those services will be sited. I understand that London Lighthouse now feels that it will be able to provide the bulk of those necessary services but not from the site on which its residential unit is presently based.

Cancer Research: International Collaboration

3.29 p.m.

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I should like to assure the noble Lord that the Government are in touch with emerging advances of relevance to the National Health Service, wherever these may occur. There are regular communications between the Government and health bodies in America and Australia. In addition, the Medical Research Council (MRC), the main agency through which the Government support biomedical and clinical research, maintains extensive international links.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. I hope that the United Kingdom will be able to share in any consequent benefits that may arise. While this is good news and while the researchers concerned are due congratulations, should we not be cautious about use of the expression "break-through", as it is the later stage when the processes are applied to people, instead of mice, that will be most significant? Indeed, that may take some time.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am extremely grateful to the noble Lord for making those remarks. Indeed, I might well have taken the opportunity

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to make them in a subsequent answer had he not done so. It is unfortunate when one initiative is seized upon and unrealistically raises the hopes of people who may, even today, be suffering from cancer and, therefore, believe that a cure may be round the corner. I discussed this recent so-called break-through--and I agree with the noble Lord that that is an expression that should only be used with great caution--with a very well-known and distinguished research scientist yesterday. I have to tell the House that he said, somewhat sardonically, that the only beneficiaries of many recent cancer research projects were mice.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, is my noble friend the Minister aware that I am extremely pleased that both she and the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, have urged caution over the matter? Further, is there any way in which my noble friend or her colleagues could prevail upon research organisations, especially medical ones, to be very careful when they release information which may well either encourage people too much or, indeed, scare them too much? In fact, we have just had an experience of how governments and other organisations can be stampeded into bringing forward absurd legislation--like that for beef on the bone--on the flimsiest of evidence and, as my noble friend said earlier, involving minuscule risk.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I leave it to my noble friend Lord Donoughue to reply as robustly as he did in his responses to the Question regarding beef on the bone. However, I turn to the question of the influence of the perhaps premature remarks of some scientists on such matters. I should point out that there are difficulties of balance to be achieved. Whereas we seek every kind of co-operation between the international scientific community to collaborate on such projects, if, for example, a researcher in Boston--like the one quoted in press reports yesterday--wishes to make what I believe it would not be unfair to call exaggerated claims for the immediate effects of his research, there is little that we can do about it.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, is not one of the problems in this field the fact that scientists rely upon the success of research that they are undertaking at present to secure future funding? The only way that they can get future funding is to publicise that success in the best possible light. Therefore, can the Minister say whether there are any prospects of reviewing the funding for scientific and medical research, especially in the United Kingdom, so that scientists do not have to rely upon this means of obtaining funding?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, £290 million was spent on cancer research in 1996-97, which is the latest period for which I have figures regarding the United Kingdom. The Government's share of that amount was about £54 million, while most of the rest was provided by extremely respected and respectable cancer charities

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whose emphasis is on research. I do not believe that they would wish to feel that their decisions were swayed by immediate media stories, or anything of that kind.

Lord McColl of Dulwich: My Lords, does the Minister agree that her remark about the scientist in Boston might have been a little unwise, because she was referring to Doctor Judah M. Folkman, who is probably one of the most brilliant cancer research workers in the world? His work has been going on for years and, indeed, is very systematic, steady and reliable. He really was not saying anything that was exaggerated, because it is really very exciting work.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, it may indeed be very exciting. I do not believe that anything I said could have suggested that it was anything other than exciting. I was responding to a question from my noble friend who suggested that such reports might perhaps cause people to become scared, or generate undue euphoria about the results. As always in the scientific community, one has as many views as one consults.

I was interested in the comments of Professor Karol Sikora yesterday who, as well as being an extremely distinguished oncologist in this country, is also chief of cancer research for the World Health Organisation. He said that, although researchers have had similar success with animal experiments in the past, very often they were disappointed when human trials failed. Indeed, he said that it would be a very long time before any of the work which was reported in the media was available as treatment. That was the simple point that I wanted to underline.

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley: My Lords, will the Minister do what she can to encourage some genuine innovation in this field of research which does not necessarily imply treatment with drugs?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am very well aware of the noble Earl's interest in complementary therapies in this field. However, he will be aware that the research that the noble Lord, Lord McColl, and I are discussing, which was reported in the media yesterday, referred not to drugs but to the way in which one might cut off the blood supply to tumours. Indeed, it was more of a physical nature than a chemical therapeutic one.

Lord Rowallan: My Lords, can the Minister inform the House whether any human beings have been used as guinea-pigs so far in this respect?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, as I understand it, the research that we have been discussing, which was based in Boston, features a cocktail of two drugs being applied to laboratory mice. However, I understand that there is the potential for human chemical trials to be started in this country next year. That, of course, will be dependent upon the further success of international collaboration.

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Social Security Bill

3.36 p.m.

Read a third time.

Clause 9 [Revision of decisions]:

The Lord Advocate (Lord Hardie) moved Amendment No. 1:

Page 6, line 5, leave out ("decision") and insert ("revision").

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, in moving this amendment, I should like to speak also to Amendments Nos. 3 and 14 to 23. This group of amendments is wholly minor and consequential and has been brought forward in order to improve, or correct, minor errors in the drafting of the Bill. Subject to the agreement of your Lordships, I do not intend to discuss the details of each amendment but will of course explain any of the changes should noble Lords wish me to do so. I beg to move.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Clause 12 [Appeal to appeal tribunal]:

Lord Goodhart moved Amendment No. 2:

Page 8, line 5, at end insert ("save that the time within which an appeal shall be brought shall not be less than two months from the notification of the decision in question.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, this amendment is coming up for air for a third time. I hope that the Government will accept it and save it from drowning. The Government have said that they intend to impose a one-month limit on the time for appeal by regulations which are to be made under Clause 12(7). The present time limit for making appeals is three months from the date of the decision being appealed against. Obviously, therefore, a reduction in time from three months to one month is a very big one. There has been strong criticism of this proposal from the Child Poverty Action Group, from the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux, as well as from other organisations dealing with social security problems. Those organisations take the view that one month is a wholly inadequate period of time.

Most appeals are brought within one month but the Government's decision to shorten the period from three months to one is not, so far as I am aware, based on any research as to the reasons why appeals brought between the end of the first month and the end of the third month were not brought earlier. It seems inherently likely that the later appeals are those which are brought by the most vulnerable and disadvantaged; for example, those in poor physical or mental health, the disabled, the elderly, those with heavy caring responsibilities and those who have problems with literacy or the English language. These people need help to prepare an appeal. They may not know where to go to obtain help and it takes them time to find out. When they contact the CAB or some other organisation they may need a home visit. The heavy caseload may mean that the CAB cannot visit them for two or three weeks.

The amendments which I moved at the Committee and Report stages sought to retain the three-month period, which is what I would prefer. However, this amendment proposes that the period should be not

7 May 1998 : Column 738

three months but two. It does so because of the Government's response at Report stage. The Government's reply to the amendment appears at cols. 977 to 980 of Hansard of 20th April. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, said that the appeal period would be two months de facto because the time would run only from the end of the dispute period. I then asked him what the dispute period comprised as no such expression appears on the face of the Bill. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Hardie, replied, in answer to a further question from the noble Lord, Lord Higgins,

    "the two-month period is a combination of two separate months. The first month is a dispute period within which a claimant may raise concerns about the decision with the department. At the end of that month a letter will be issued confirming the decision or stating the final decision. So the claimant will receive a letter indicating what the decision is. If the claimant is unhappy with it he goes back to the department. If the department accepts there is a mistake it will issue a corrected decision. If it does not accept there is a mistake it will issue a letter confirming the original decision.

    At the end of that period of a month, the appeal period will commence. There is a period of one month after that within which one has to lodge an appeal".--[Official Report, 20/4/98; cols. 978-79.]

Since then the noble and learned Lord has clarified those comments in a letter, a copy of which has been placed in the Library. That letter makes clear, as I had assumed, that there is not an automatic one-month dispute period. It states,

    "it is only if a claimant disputes the original decision (within one month) that extra time will be allowed. In these circumstances the Agency will look again at the issues and notify the claimant of the outcome (either that the original decision has been upheld or revised). The claimant will then have one month to lodge an appeal from the date of that notification.

    If the claimant does not contact the Agency about the decision within one month--either to dispute it or to lodge an appeal--any subsequent application to have the decision revised will be considered under the provisions for a late appeal".

It is therefore plainly correct that if no challenge is made in month one, there is no dispute period and the time for the appeal expires at the end of month one.

The people who are most in need of help are those who are least likely to raise a dispute in month one. Why not therefore simply say that there will be at least a two-month appeal period for everyone, whether or not they have raised the dispute in month one? This seems to me to be a sensible compromise. I ask the Government to accept it, or at least to undertake to include a two-month period for appeal in the regulations. I beg to move.

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