(HANSARD) in the second session of the fifty-third parliament of the united kingdom of great britain and northern ireland commencing on the thirteenth day of june in the fiftieth year of the reign of




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Monday, 8th September 2003.

The House met at half-past two of the clock: The LORD CHANCELLOR on the Woolsack.

Prayers—Read by the Lord Bishop of Peterborough.

The Lord Chancellor: Leave of Absence

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): My Lords, before business begins, may I take the opportunity to inform the House that I will be undertaking a ministerial visit to Coventry on Tuesday, 9th September? Accordingly, I trust that the House will grant me leave of absence.

House of Lords: Members' Interests

2.37 p.m.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked the Leader of the House:

    Whether, in the light of current practice concerning declarations of interest, any noble Lord who has been, or is, in receipt of any emolument or pension from the European Union or from any organisation funded by the European Union should declare it when speaking in debate involving the United Kingdom's relationship with the European Union.

The Lord President of the Council (Lord Williams of Mostyn): My Lords, Members must declare any interest which is relevant to the matter under discussion. The test of relevance is whether it might reasonably be thought by the public to affect the way in which Members discharge their parliamentary duties. It is for each Member to decide what to declare.

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The Committee for Privileges is due to set up a review of the code this autumn, and any noble Lord can submit appropriate suggestions to that review.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I am grateful for that helpful reply from the noble and learned Lord. But is he aware that EU Commissioners and staff are bound to owe allegiance solely to the EU, ignoring the interests of their country; and that they may lose their pension if they let the side down, even after they have retired? Furthermore, does the noble and learned Lord agree that, if a noble Lord is employed by or gets a pension from, say, an insurance company and we were debating the City of London, he would have to declare that interest? What is the difference between that situation and the one referred to on the Order Paper?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I was not aware of the particular relationship between former employees of the European Union or any of its institutions, because I have never been in that blest capacity. I think the answer to the noble Lord's concerns is to be found in that admirable code which your Lordships approved so recently by an overwhelming majority of three. If the noble Lord is in any doubt at all, he can go and talk to the registrar informally and have guidance. I really do think that that is the best way to proceed rather than laying down overly prescriptive rules.

Lord Richard: My Lords, having listened to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, for some years now, I do not think that I have ever heard such a load of nonsense from his lips as I just did. The idea that there is some residual allegiance in me to the Commission as opposed to doing my job here in this House is, frankly, absolute nonsense. I shall say only one thing in relation to the Question as opposed to the nonsense from the noble Lord. Presumably if this applies to the Commissioners, it will apply to everyone else. Everyone in this House, therefore, will have to declare whether they have a pension and, if so, what is

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the basis of that pension; and indeed whether they still owe allegiance to the body paying the pension. That would be a very interesting development.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, sometimes the noble Lord does talk a lot of Rannochs.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, I declare an interest as the recipient of an insurance company pension. Does the noble and learned Lord accept that, by definition, by the time one becomes a pensioner, the amount of influence that one can exert on those paying the pension is nil minus?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, speaking as a prudent investor in Equitable Life, I am only too aware of that.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, is the noble and learned Lord aware that the Bruges Group pamphlet from which the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, has drawn much of his evidence, describes the European Union as an alien power and those who receive emoluments from it in this country as an intellectual fifth column? Is he aware that the Bruges Group pamphlet identifies the focus for this intellectual fifth column as being partly placed in the London School of Economics and partly in Manchester University?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, so, plainly, it is all true.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, I was not sure that I heard an answer from the noble and learned Lord to his noble friend Lord Richard—perhaps because I am not sure that the noble Lord phrased a question. Could I phrase a further question to the noble and learned Lord following on from the intervention of the noble Lord, Lord Richard? Would it not be a good idea for the Government and those involved in the declarations of interest in this House to read the staff regulations of the European Union: Title II, Articles 11, 12 and 16; and in Title VI, which refers to disciplinary measures, Article 86.1 and 86.2, and particularly paragraph (g), which confirms exactly what I have said about letting the side down and losing your pension?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I am not sure that the noble Lord has asked me a question, but he has certainly illuminated matters satisfactorily.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, as someone who has a pension from the EU, perhaps I may say that the supplementary question was even worse than the original.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, perhaps we have all had too short a holiday.

Lord Hannay of Chiswick: My Lords, does the noble and learned Lord agree with the noble Lord,

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Lord Richard, that the basic thrust of the Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, is that he wishes all Members of this House in receipt of pensions to declare them, no matter where they are from—and there are many Members in receipt of pensions, and many of them are no doubt from Her Majesty's Government? To what purpose? Would the noble and learned Lord see any purpose whatever in that, or any distinction between that situation and the pensions from the European Union?

Lord Williams of Mostyn: My Lords, I think that the noble Lord has a good point. With the code we were looking to get a proportionate response to perceived malpractices, or to conceivable malpractices. By and large, we achieved that with a light touch. That is not to prevent anyone setting up Aunt Sallies and then knocking them down, but the code of conduct has little to do with whether one supports the Bruges Group on the one hand or such an institution as the London School of Economics on the other.

NHS Dental Treatment

2.44 p.m.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the availability of National Health Service dental treatment satisfies the needs of patients.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): My Lords, no. That is why, a year ago, the Government published the report of the Options for Change working group, representing all stakeholders, including the British Dental Association and patients' groups. The proposals will be implemented through the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Bill that we will debate later today. The changes will enable primary care trusts to commission the NHS dental services that their communities need and provide incentives for dentists to offer dentistry to NHS patients.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I wish the Minister a happy birthday. I am sorry that I have to be so nasty on his birthday, but is it not time that the Government stopped talking about dentistry and did something about it? Here is yet another paper and yet another consultation, but I have been asking questions about this matter since we got a Labour government in 1997 and, indeed, long before that. Going back to 1997, we have heard constant promises that dentistry is going to improve, yet we have seen a situation in Wales where 600 people have been queuing because a dentist is prepared to accept national health patients. Really, yet another paper is not good enough or soon enough.

Lord Warner: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for her good wishes. I can think of no better way of spending my birthday than in the company of your Lordships.

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On the subject of whether things have got better or worse, I should point out to the noble Baroness that the number of dentists working in general dental services increased by 30th September 2002 to 18,400, compared with 16,700 in 1997. The action that we are taking in the Bill will totally reconstruct the remuneration arrangements for dentists, which are fully supported by the British Dental Association. We are taking positive steps by moving the Bill in your Lordships' House today.

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