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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, my noble friend is obviously right. Many pensioners, particularly women over 75, as I said, do not claim the income support to which they are entitled. At the moment we
The Countess of Mar: My Lords, does the Minister appreciate that individuals suffering from ME or chronic fatigue syndrome are in a particularly difficult situation when they claim social security benefits because their condition varies so much from day to day? Many of them have had their benefits withdrawn on the basis that they are fit for work on a particular day, although they are not on other days. Will the review take that into account?
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I have had a number of helpful letters from organisations representing ME sufferers. The all-work test, with its either/or requirement, is inappropriate for those who suffer from fluctuating conditions. That is one of the reasons why we need to review the all-work test. We shall be taking such conditions and illnesses into account.
Lord Dholakia: My Lords, what efforts are being made to publicise such information in ethnic minority newspapers so that those who have language difficulties can exercise their full rights in claiming the benefits?
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, that is an important point. We are taking steps to publicise the situation. It may be that we are not doing enough. I shall follow the matter up and let the noble Lord know exactly what we are doing on that.
Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that her sympathetic response is warmly appreciated? However, it will require special measures to solve the problem of low take-up. Will the Government consider a special disability benefits week so that the availability of benefits can be highlighted and the rights of eligible people emphasised, with the stigma of applying for those benefits removed?
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, we have already engaged in campaigns to promote--and successfully so, I believe--the take-up of industrial injuries and in-work benefits, for example, family credit and income support. However, there is a specific problem with disability benefits. We do not know why some of the benefits are not being claimed. It is not that they are means tested, because many are not. It may be that the forms are complex. It may be that healthcare professionals do not promote them in the way they should. I welcome the advice of my noble friends on this matter. I propose to raise the issue with the
Baroness Knight of Collingtree: My Lords, I am most grateful. Can the Minister assure the House that when a couple in receipt of well over £3,000 a year draw child benefit they pay tax on that benefit?
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I apologise that I am having trouble with the microphones on this side of the Chamber. If I am right, the noble Baroness asked whether we shall be considering taxing child benefit. That is a matter for the Chancellor.
The dualling schemes between Haddington and Dunbar, and indeed around Alnwick, are subject to the strategic review of trunk roads to be completed later this year. Between Dunbar and the Border two minor schemes were completed earlier this year; and the construction of a third is expected to start around September. Other improvements have been identified between the Border and Newcastle. Subject to the availability of funds, and completion of any statutory procedures, work could start on the Felton to Lanehead section next year.
Lord Selkirk of Douglas: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her reply. Can I ask for an assurance that as a matter of priority, planning for the future dualling will go ahead so that when resources become available work on construction can start, both in the interests of reducing casualties on those sections of the road and of improving the economic competitiveness of the east of Scotland and north-east of England?
The review examines the rationale behind new roads construction, weighing road improvements against other transport options, and taking into account the criteria of accessibility, safety, economy, environmental impact and integration. All those issues are being considered. It would be wrong and inappropriate to anticipate the result of that review by giving any specific assurance about any particular area.
Lord Steel of Aikwood: My Lords, is the Minister aware that it gives me particular pleasure to support the noble Lord in his Question since he was the Minister whom I used to ask the same Question in another place?
The dualling of the road from Edinburgh to Newcastle is of great importance. While considering the total transport needs of the area, will the noble Baroness bear in mind the increasing case for reopening the Waverley railway route from Edinburgh to Galashiels, not only in the interests of the economy north of the Border but of the environment and the city? There are now new substantial housing developments in Midlothian which make the project more viable.
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, I am sure that that will indeed be taken into account in the overall review. The noble Lord may well be aware--if he is not, he will be interested to know--that a freight scheme is under development at present. The Scottish Office is in regular contact with the developers. Subject to parliamentary approval, it is anticipated that the developer will submit an application for financial assistance under the freight facilities grant scheme. It would be inappropriate for me to comment further in advance of parliamentary approval.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, is the Scottish Office still responsible for trunk roads north of the Border, and the Department of the Environment for trunk roads in England and financed respectively? If so, can the Minister give an assurance that improvement of the A.1 in Scotland is not being delayed because adjoining work south of Berwick is receiving less priority?
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, the situation is as it has always been. Noble Lords opposite who have been in office in the Scottish Office will be well aware of the situation. The responsibilities and priorities remain the same. What was always in the hands of the Scottish Office Ministers remains in their hands.
Baroness Pitkeathley: My Lords, I understand that no amendments have been set down to this Bill and that no noble Lord has indicated a wish to move a manuscript amendment or to speak in Committee. Therefore, unless any noble Lord objects, I beg to move that the order of commitment be discharged.