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Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, in response to the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, I am more than aware of all the arguments in this House over long, long hours during the passage of the Scotland Bill Among other things, they included the question of how a unicameral Parliament would cope. I know there are Members on the Benches opposite who are also only too familiar with that and with all the arguments. With regard to the second part of the noble Baroness's intervention, that is entirely a matter within the competence of the Scottish Parliament and I have no comment to make.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, far be it from me to interfere in matters north of the Border. The last time I did that, in the House of Commons, I was rather embarrassed, as a matter of fact. That was a long time ago. However, if unicameralism is respectable in Scotland and in a Scottish Parliament, why is it not
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, the pros and cons of unicameral systems have been rehearsed in this House many times, not least during the passage of the Scotland Bill. I really do not believe that we should be reploughing that furrow now in Oral Questions. I should be delighted to do so but I do not believe the House has the time.
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I know that the House always enjoys hearing from the noble Baroness and we know that the Government are, after all, masters of the soundbite. With her considerable parliamentary attainments, I am sure that it might be possible for the noble Baroness to favour us with a soundbite as to why Scotland and its Parliament are happy to have a single chamber and this Parliament is not.
Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that I do not read tabloids? I take my text today from the Scotsman, which, as the noble Baroness rightly said, reported Mr Donald Dewar as saying:
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, if the noble Lord is going in for the business of selective quotations, he could have continued himself down that paragraph where the position is made very clear. Mr Dewar stated:
Baroness Ramsay of Cartvale: My Lords, I really do wish that noble Lords who are raising this question now would take the time to read Hansard if they did not take the time to come into the Chamber for the proceedings on the Scotland Bill when all these arguments were put forward. We were discussing a parliament for Scotland in a new system and we all decided that the best system in that context was a unicameral parliament. It was decided then after long discussions. Any noble Lord who wishes can find all of those lengthy discussions in Hansard.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): My Lords, in 2000-01 the Government will spend in excess of £42 million on veterinary research. The research is fully co-ordinated across government departments and research councils and the appropriate structures are in place to ensure that it is effective. The Government recognise the importance of co-ordination and continue to encourage the development of appropriate mechanisms. Where necessary, we have created high level committees to oversee research of national importance.
Lord Peyton of Yeovil: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for that quite astonishing reply which could only have emanated from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. Will she follow me in two very simple propositions: first, that veterinary research and animal health are important; and, secondly, that funds for research are not overflowing? It therefore follows that those funds should be spent as well as possible. Is it really the fact that the best we can do is to produce a combination between the ministry, whose defects are already well known, a body known as the BBSRC to its friends--I shall not tire your Lordships with its full title--and the Higher Education Funding Council? Those bodies have their own axes to grind. Far from co-operating or being co-ordinated together, they produce fragmentation to the extent that research is separated from disease and disease is separated entirely from teaching and training.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, the noble Lord is wishing for a simpler world than that which actually exists. I certainly agree with him that veterinary research is important. My department, much maligned as it is, particularly by the noble Lord, Lord Peyton, has increased spending on veterinary research by nearly £10 million since 1996. However, we are not the only funders of such research. The Government as a whole, as I am sure my noble friend Lord Sainsbury would point out, have increased their funding by
The Earl of Selborne: My Lords, is the Minister aware that a year ago the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons set up a committee of inquiry into co-ordinating veterinary research, a committee which I had the privilege to chair, and that as a result there has been a welcome measure of collaboration between the Ministry of Agriculture, the BBSRC, the MRC, the Wellcome Trust and others? I understand that Professor Brian Fender, the chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for England, is leading with the co-ordinating group which is trying to implement this much needed co-ordination. Perhaps the Minister can tell us whether that group is making any progress.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, that comment reflects the importance of bringing together those who have an interest in this area in order to try to take forward research on a co-ordinated basis. It is very much mirrored in human medical research, where it is necessary that we bring together the charities, the professional organisations and government as a funder. The work that is done at the Royal Veterinary College has been extremely valuable. We can continue to build on that.
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, perhaps I may declare an interest as Chairman of the Council of the Royal Veterinary College. Is the Minister aware that it is generally thought in certain quarters that are interested in this matter that the committee chaired by my noble friend Lord Selborne did an extremely useful job? Is she further aware that there is great disappointment that much of what he recommended has not yet been properly implemented; in particular, that research into these increasingly important diseases not only for animal but human health is being fragmented? Does she accept that a co-ordinating committee is not enough and that we look to the Government to institute proper peer review of research rather than merely co-ordination through a government department?
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