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Earl Russell: My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may ask him one question. I hasten to reassure him that I do not seek an immediate answer. My question relates to the treatment of noise-induced hearing loss in war pensioners. Can the noble Lord explain why the Government's treatment of this matter is so different from that of the Government of the Republic of Ireland? Perhaps he will remember, in drafting the explanation, that the Government of the Republic have relied on the advice of the same medical experts who have advised the British Government.

Lord Haskel: My Lords, I am not aware of the advice given to the Government of the Republic of Ireland. The Government have kept their pledge to review the scientific basis for the department's approach to the assessment of noise-induced sensorial hearing loss in war pensioners. My noble friend Lady Hollis has accepted the review team's recommendation that the matter should be reviewed in one year's time and has asked the war pensions medical policy adviser to report to her on any further relevant scientific developments in February 1999.

2.40 p.m.

Lord Morris of Manchester: My Lords, I am most grateful to those in all parts of your Lordships' House who have spoken on the Bill for all their kindness to me personally and for the support they have given to the Bill's provisions. My noble friend Lord Haskel promised to have urgently reviewed all of the individual cases raised with him. Quite clearly there were cases of personal hardship and I hope we shall hear very soon that they have been justly resolved.

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In reply to the only reservation I have heard about its provisions, I have to say that the Bill's purposes are not by any means met by present arrangements. Let me quote just two of the Bill's requirements. The first is that the annual report shall include,

    "an assessment of whether the payments made during the year in respect of those pensions [that is, service, war and war widows' pensions] have been sufficient to prevent their recipients suffering any unnecessary hardship".

That requirement is not met now. We heard today of several cases of extreme hardship. While the Minister will respond in writing to the noble Lords who gave your Lordships' House details of cases of unnecessary hardship, it would help Parliament and the service and ex-service communities far more if there was a report, annually, on such cases from the Government. Secondly, the report sought by this Bill would have to say,

    "what plans, if any, [the Secretary of State] has to improve the well-being of those recipients [of service, war and war widows' pensions], whether by means of changes to the level of payments made in respect of those pensions or otherwise".

That requirement is not, to my knowledge, met by any document now available to your Lordships' House. The requirements I am seeking are urgent, not just in my view, but also in the view of the recipients of service, war and war widows' pensions.

The Royal British Legion, the Officers' Pension Society, BLESMA, among many other organisations to which frequent reference has been made today, have the admiration of all of us. They want to see this Bill enacted. If there is any attempt to block the Bill in this Session it will not disappear. They will carry on, as they did in relation to other important improvements that have been secured, for as long as it takes to succeed.

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I am satisfied that, given a wink and a nod from Ministers, the Bill would be enacted very quickly indeed, for there is also enormous support for the Bill in another place. Thus again, and with confidence, I ask this House to give this Bill a Second Reading.

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

Sexual Orientation Discrimination Bill [H.L.]

2.44 p.m.

Baroness Turner of Camden: 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.

Moved, That the order of commitment be discharged.--(Baroness Turner of Camden.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Criminal Appeal (Amendment) Bill [H.L.]

Lord Ackner: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to add to the verdicts or findings which may be subject to a reference to the court by the Criminal Cases Review Commission. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

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

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

        House adjourned at a quarter before three o'clock.

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