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Earl Howe: My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing the order which I warmly welcome. I also welcome the promptness with which the Government have brought the order forward. The substantive issues which stem from it were debated on 28th June when we considered the Unstarred Question tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Ashley of Stoke. I shall not therefore take up the time of the House with unnecessary repetition.
I have two questions for the Minister. First, she mentioned that one of the elements of the Government's announcement last month was that those people who have in the past received lump sum payments will now be entitled to top-up payments to put them on an equal footing with new claimants. Will the Minister say when that retrospective part of the package will be put in place? Will she confirm my understanding that further regulations will be needed to achieve that?
Secondly, I refer to the other two improvements to the scheme; that is to say, the reduction in the disability threshold and the lifting of the six-year limit for making claims. As the Minister has just confirmed, both those changes will require primary legislation. Will the Minister be more forthcoming about that legislation? Of course I understand that she cannot pre-empt the Gracious Speech. However, it would be reassuring to hear her say that it represents a high priority for her department.
I reiterate my welcome for the order which will undoubtedly bring with it considerable relief for victims of vaccine damage, for whom we all have the utmost sympathy, as well as for the families who look after them.
Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I, too, warmly welcome what the Minister said. I associate myself strongly with her acknowledgement of the role played by the parents' groups in a long campaign. Despite the length of the campaign and the slowness of the review, I welcome the fact that the regulations have been brought before both Houses with such speed.
As the Minister pointed out, we had an extensive debate--I describe it as extensive and robust--which aired a number of points. I welcome the additional detail the Minister has provided today. I understand rather better how the Appropriation Act operates in these circumstances. I did not understand how this measure would achieve retrospection, but now I think I do. That is helpful.
The Minister responded to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Brennan, with regard to a nominated office. I believe that the families concerned will be reassured to know that they can get in touch with the vaccine damage payments unit in Preston if they need to. That is a helpful measure. Is the office in Preston--I assume that the staff there have this responsibility--making good progress in identifying those to whom top-up payments should be made? I hope that as soon as the measures under the Appropriation Act are implemented, those who are eligible will be written to quickly. The Minister made the point in our debate on 28th June that all their names and addresses were not known. I hope that that matter can be rectified with some speed.
I second what the noble Earl, Lord Howe, said about the primary legislation. I hope that the Minister will say that this is a priority for her department. Whether or not her department wishes to introduce the matter during the spill-over or after the Queen's Speech, we on these Benches will give every possible co-operation in terms of making sure that it speeds its way through this House. The issues raised by the primary legislation in terms of the threshold and the time limits are extremely important and we very much want to see them on the statute book.
I shall not repeat what I said on 28th June. However, I wish to raise one issue as I do not feel that the Minister quite answered my question about whether the Government are working to secure more substantial compensation--I use the word "compensation" and not "payment" advisedly--for those damaged by vaccines. Is this change in the VDP scheme--as the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, hoped--a first step? Do the Government feel that they have now discharged their duty to the unfortunate victims? Or will they now consider introducing strict liability for vaccine damage as recommended by Pearson so
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I am obviously delighted that both Opposition Benches welcome the order and the speed with which the Government have approached the matter. I am sure that, like everyone else, they will be cheering when the parents get their first cheques, probably in August, but as soon as possible.
As to the question raised by the noble Earl, Lord Howe, retrospection relates to the threshold and the time limit changes. That is why primary legislation is needed. The top-up payments to current and former holders of payments can be made without the need for legislation. So the question does not arise and further regulations are not an issue.
The noble Earl and the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, asked whether I could give a date for primary legislation. I am sure they will understand the difficulty I am in; we shall not see primary legislation this side of the Queen's Speech. But it is important to the Government that we complete the rest of the programme. Subject to any other decisions, I hope that we will see legislation as soon as possible in the not too distant future.
The noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, spoke about the difficulties of locating people who do not necessarily know that they are entitled to these payments. He is absolutely right. That is why we want the unit at Preston identified and why we want to achieve as much publicity as possible through the organisations. I hope also that we shall be able to call on the press--particularly the campaign led by the Daily Express--to encourage parents who may not be aware of their rights to come forward. One of the difficulties obviously is that some vaccine damaged children are 30 years old; their parents may have moved home several times and we may have lost track of their records. Anything the media can do to help publicise their right to claim would be very welcome.
Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, picked up on the issue that, to some extent, he ran with when we discussed the matter on 28th June. He asked whether there will be more substantial compensation to individuals. We regard this legislation as producing a just recognition of the difficulties that families face in meeting some of the additional costs that arise with a vaccine damaged child. It is not strictly compensation. Compensation suggests some admission of liability, and I certainly do not wish to suggest that. It is some contribution to the recognised financial and emotional costs that these families and children incur.
We, as a Government, are not proposing to go beyond that and to engage in litigation with companies or any such further proposals. Indeed, we do not share the view held by the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, that the companies are in any sense negligent in terms of their behaviour; nor does the research suggest in any way--for example, with the MMR vaccine, which I think is the one that particularly concerns the noble
For those reasons--the fact that we do not believe that the vaccine (in the MMR cases in particular) was at fault, and the fact that there is no evidence that there is any physical connection between the illnesses subsequently (and, in some cases, almost before the jabs took place) being experienced by the children and the vaccination itself--we do not feel that it is appropriate to talk the language of negligence, liability or suing companies for compensation. That will not be the Government's route.
Obviously, both the limits and any other areas in which it is appropriate to help vaccine damaged children will, as always, be kept under review. I am not trying to shut the door on this matter, but we believe that by going for an increase from £30,000 in 1997 to £100,000 now the Government are honourably meeting some of the costs that families have. It should not be forgotten that families with vaccine damaged children continue to have access to a full range of benefits, which, were they to be amortised into capital, would be effectively a quite substantial sum.
That is the Government's position. We shall be coming forward to your Lordships' House with legislation to complete the picture as soon as we appropriately can to ensure that children who have received vaccine damage, particularly through the polio jab, get the compensation and the help they are entitled to. We hope that this will make a useful and decent difference to their families' lives. With that, I ask your Lordships to accept the draft order.
The noble Baroness said: My Lords, this is an order which will be made under Section 105 of the Scotland Act 1998. It is the third of its kind. Two extensive orders were made under this power last year ahead of devolution.
Section 105 enables existing enactments or instruments to be amended as necessary in consequence of the Scotland Act. Given the wide implications of devolution, it was impractical to make provision at the time for every modification of every enactment necessary as a result of that Act. Section 105 enables further modifications to be made as the need arises.
This order deals with all the examples identified over the past year where a consequential modification is necessary. In some cases this has simply been a matter of realising that a power which may have to be
A number of the entries relate to the procedure in the Scottish Parliament for devolved secondary legislation subject to affirmative resolution procedure, particularly where the statute requires the approval to be obtained within a certain number of days. As matters stand before the current order, largely as a result of different terminology between the Scottish Parliament and Westminster, there are cases where the period allowed for parliamentary scrutiny continues to run during the parliamentary Recess. This means that an order can fall because the Scottish Parliament has not been sitting to pass the required affirmative resolutions. The current order puts the Scottish Parliament procedure on a similar basis to that obtaining here in that the clock marking the period within which affirmative resolutions are required will stop ticking during recess.
Another entry relating to subordinate legislation procedure is that for the Human Rights Act 1998. Section 10 of that Act provides for Ministers to make remedial orders where statutory provisions are found to be incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights. It will be possible for these orders to be made in relation to devolved matters by the Scottish Ministers. Schedule 2 to the Human Rights Act regulates the parliamentary procedure for these orders. That procedure is more complex than the usual statutory instrument procedures. Section 118 of the Scotland Act does not do all that is necessary to translate the parliamentary procedure for these orders so that it operates correctly in the Scottish Parliament. A similar procedure for deregulation orders in the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 was amended by an earlier order under Section 105.
Another group of entries in the order extend references to the term "enactment" so that they include references to Acts of the Scottish Parliament where that is necessary. The general rule is that references to "enactment" in Acts of the UK Parliament do not include Acts of the Scottish Parliament or instruments made under Acts of the Scottish Parliament. But in some cases it is desirable that references to "enactment" should include Acts of the Scottish Parliament so that this Parliament's Act operates properly. Amendments of that type have been made to the Equal Pay Act, the Sex Discrimination Act, the Race Relations Act and the Requirements of Writing (Scotland) Act.
Noble Lords will perhaps be relieved that I do not intend to go into the detail of each entry in the order. There are some 23 modifications. However, if noble Lords have questions on any specific entries I will be
Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, I am sure that we are all very grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Ramsay of Cartvale, for what I am sure, when I read it, will be a very clear explanation of what the order does. I am bound to say that until she spoke I found it extremely difficult to follow. As I listened, some points were cleared up and probably more will be cleared in my mind when I have read what she said. But I should like to put in a plea--it follows from what my noble friend said earlier--about the Explanatory Note. It is very difficult to know from the Explanatory Note what is happening. The Explanatory Note simply repeats what the order itself says. In fact it is very difficult from that to know what to do, because I think I am right in saying that the order amends 21 Acts of Parliament. Am I supposed, as a humble, simple Back-Bench Peer, to look up 21 Acts and see precisely what happens in each case in so far as concerns the law affecting Scotland? If there is a common thread running through all the changes in those 21 Acts, it would have been helpful to have a paragraph explaining precisely what that change was. I trust the noble Baroness and assume that that is precisely what is happening. But next time an order similar to this is before the House I hope that she will ask the Secretary of State for Scotland to provide a rather fuller explanation. That would be enormously helpful.
Paragraph 21 of the order relates to the Human Rights Act, to which the noble Baroness referred. Do I understand that that Act, which was passed only in 1998, is being altered simply to meet the existing situation, or will the Scots Parliament alter Acts relating to Scotland once those Acts have been found to be outwith the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act? Is the procedure actually changing? I rather suspect that it is. That it is not going to happen in the House of Commons and the House of Lords any more but in the Scots Parliament. It would be helpful to know whether that is true. I may be misreading that. I am not a lawyer. It is quite difficult for me to follow. That is my main point.
My other point is whether for years ahead we will go on noticing in the statute book things which require to be changed? What will happen if we notice them after we are required to make the change? Will that not be a problem? What will happen if we come across something in some Act that was passed by Westminster and we find that it simply is not valid because of the existence of the Scots Parliament? There will have to be an immediate order, I suppose, to put that right. I have two questions. First, has the procedure under the Human Rights Act actually changed when legislation which affects Scotland is
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