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Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply. If I understand it, he has probably snatched my question. The point that I wanted to make clear is that under the regulations—Schedule 3 to and Section 54 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act—local authorities were precluded from providing community care for EEA nationals as well as for other categories that are outlined in the definition. The bed blocking that could consequently result in National Health Service hospitals if local authorities were not able to provide that ongoing community care could have been very serious. Is it clear now that all EEA nationals and anyone else in the categories contained in Schedule 3 or Section 54 will be entitled to care in the community, or will those who have resided here for less than 10 years, which is the guidance at the moment, be precluded?

Lord Filkin: My Lords, for the benefit of the rest of the House who may be interested in what this Question is about, it is essentially about the intersect between Section 54 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act on benefit shopping and whether that precluded local authorities from action—providing care to people leaving hospital. It is an important Question.

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We have today put out clear guidance from the Social Services Inspectorate that is in line with what I said, making it clear that anyone who has Community treaty rights as a result of working here, being a dependant of someone working here or who is a student is entitled to receive social care under Community treaty rights as distinct from the prohibition in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act.

We also know from discussions with Westminster City Council, which raised the matter, that of the 13 cases to which it referred, 12 are clear to be discharged from hospital and will receive benefit. The one remaining area of uncertainty involves people from another EEA nation who may be in hospital but who have never had treaty rights because they never worked in this country. We are exploring that issue actively with the Department of Health and local authority associations.

Earl Howe: My Lords, I welcome the Minister's assurance that the guidance that is being issued will be clear. Does he share my view that the existing regulations about what local authority support may be provided to which asylum seekers is extremely complex and confusing and that it is essential that National Health Service hospitals are able to take a clear view on this extremely important matter, which we will debate this afternoon when we reach the Report stage of the Community Care (Delayed Discharges etc.) Bill?

Lord Filkin: My Lords, I do not agree with the noble Earl that the guidance is unclear. The area of uncertainty was not about hospitals but about whether a local authority could legitimately provide care. In practice, the position under treaty rights was clear. Having said that—I am glad that this issue has been raised because it allowed us to put out a national clarification—a local authority is perfectly entitled in this regard and the Community treaty rights were clear in the circumstances that I have described. We therefore believe that there is not a significant problem, with the exception of the one small issue that I raised, which we are considering further.

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I welcome the Minister's statement and the guidance. What recommendation does the guidance offer to the NHS and social services about how nationality is trapped in those circumstances?

Lord Filkin: My Lords, rather than boring the House to tedium, I should be happy to place a copy of the guidance issued by the Social Services Inspectorate in the Library. I hope to do so very shortly. In essence, anyone who is an EEA national, who has worked here or is a student, or is the dependant of anyone who has worked here—work includes self-employment for these purposes—is entitled to social care because they attain that right through Community treaty rights.

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Baroness Hanham: My Lords, I am concerned by the words "work here" or "have worked here". What about those people under EEA treaties who do not and have not worked here? Will they be entitled to such benefits? They may have come here for a number of reasons; they may never have worked a day since arriving in this country and consequently they fall into the trap that is being laid within the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act. Would the Minister be kind enough to respond to that?

Lord Filkin: My Lords, I have responded as far as I am able on that point. I signalled that, as far as we could see, there was not a significant number of cases. I instanced the 12 out of the 13; we were clear within a matter of hours that they fell into the beneficial category about which I spoke.

The area of complexity is a more general area about whether I or anyone else can go to another EEA country and be entitled to receive full and total social security support. People who come to this country to retire sign a declaration that they will be able to support themselves. In that area we are considering further issues carefully and we shall continue to do that over the next week or so.

University Research Funding

2.50 p.m.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What criteria would need to be satisfied for university departments to gain the 6* status proposed in paragraph 2.15 of the White Paper The future of higher education (Cm 5735).

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Education and Skills (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has announced that it will allocate £20 million next year to university research departments that achieved a 5* rating in both the 1996 and 2001 research assessment exercises. HEFCE will consider how to reward the very best performers in future years.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I welcome the extra money that is being put into the science budget. However, she did not answer my Question. I declare an interest: for the past 20 years of my academic career I have worked in the Science Policy Research Unit and I continue to be a visiting fellow in that unit. Is the Minister aware that already 75 per cent of science funding is concentrated in the hands of 25 per cent of universities? That is a higher proportion than in any other country, including the United States. Is she also aware of research that was undertaken in the early 1990s at the Science Policy Research Unit that indicated that there was little or no evidence of any economies of scale in scientific research other than in departments that share large

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pieces of equipment, such as CERN? Is she worried that the further concentration of funding in large departments will stifle innovative research from smaller departments, and particularly from young, new researchers?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I believe that I answered the Question posed by the noble Baroness on the criteria. The criteria used by HEFCE are the 1996 and 2001 research assessment exercises. I accept the noble Baroness's point about how research moneys are currently distributed. That is one reason why we have created a capability fund of £18 million. We want to look at distributing more moneys to departments that are rated 3A and 3B in seven identified emerging areas. It is important that universities are able to pursue excellence in research. We recognise emerging excellence departments, those areas of research where we need greater capability and, as is mentioned in the White Paper, the need to focus on teaching and on knowledge transfer.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, can the Government defend their cuts in the teaching programme that inevitably will have an effect on research programmes in our universities, particularly at Oxford?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I do not have details of the specific issues raised by the noble Baroness in relation to Oxford. We believe that the settlement for universities and higher education is a good settlement. Within that we believe that we are able to support universities in the pursuit of their teaching programmes, in the pursuit of research and in the pursuit of knowledge transfer—the three strands within the White Paper.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, does the Minister accept that it is possible to have too many new initiatives for the higher education sector and that this may be one too many? I declare an interest: I was a member of one department for the first RAE exercise and a member of a different department at a different university for the second RAE exercise. I believe that the whole 6* status is historically flawed in all kinds of intellectual and financial ways. Can the Minister explain whether there is any intellectual rationale for this odd proposal?

Baroness Ashton of Upholland: My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord will appreciate that I do not consider it to be an odd proposal. In a global economy, in which we compete with institutions and departments across the world, we must ensure that in our education system we are always in pursuit of excellence. I believe that this is part of that pursuit of excellence. It is a recognition of the enormous amount of work and the fantastic amount of research of an extremely high quality that takes place in our universities.

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