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Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, will my noble friend give way? I specifically referred to this point. I do not place any credence on the position of the Opposition. This issue has to be faced in its own right.

Lord Warner: My Lords, I should say to my noble friend that it is—

Earl Russell: My Lords, will the Minister further accept that Mr Letwin does not speak for this party opposite?

Lord Warner: My Lords, who knows who he speaks for? With due respect to my noble friend, it is worth dwelling on what Mr Letwin said when he was the shadow Home Secretary only a few weeks ago because it shows a very different approach from the Government's proposals. We were being chided by Members on the Benches opposite about our approach to asylum but—and no one has denied this following the changes of responsibilities in the new, slim-line shadow Cabinet—they believe that decisions should be taken to move towards a situation whereby applicants for asylum would be placed on what I have described as a fantasy island—we know not where.

There has been a lot of criticism about the action the Government are taking but it is worth bearing in mind that when we came to office it was taking on average 20 months to deal with applications for asylum. We are now making 80 per cent of initial decisions within two months. So considerable progress has been made in this area.

I also draw my noble friend's attention to the comments made by the chief executive of the Law Society on 27th October, who acknowledged that the asylum system is being abused by unqualified legal advisers. The position now is that of 1,000 adjudicator appeals, 790 will be refused, about 100 will have a further hearing and, of those, only 14 per cent will be successful. So the current records show considerable levels of abuse and that a large number of applicants do not have well-founded cases. That is the situation and we have to look at the Government's proposals in that context.

I, too, pay tribute to the powerful speech of the noble Lord, Lord Fowler. I heard him describe the Health Protection Agency Bill as the Bill that dare not speak its name. However, it is a much more mundane Bill than that. It sounds very exciting but my reading of the Bill is that it is not as exciting as the noble Lord seemed to suggest. We will debate the detail of the Bill when it arrives here and I believe that noble Lords will generally welcome it. I shall not go through the detail of the Bill at this stage. We must wait with bated breath

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for Second Reading. We accept that there are difficulties in this area. No one claims that everything is for the best in the best of all possible worlds.

As to the Global Fund, DfID will contribute 280 million US dollars in 2002-08. Neither the Global Fund nor donors earmark any contributions particularly towards AIDS projects. It is for individual countries to apply for funding in a way that most suits their particular needs. My information is that 60 per cent of the funds approved so far are for HIV/AIDS projects, so a considerable sum of money is going towards that area.

In terms of domestic policy, DfES issued guidance on sex and relationships education in July 2000 and schools are required to develop their sex and relationships education. This is important work. The SRE is covered by Ofsted inspections. The department is also working for the continued professional development of SRE. So we are trying to get back to young people in this area of education.

The Government published in July 2001 the first ever national sexual health and HIV strategy. As part of that we have a national sex lottery campaign, which was launched last year backed by an initial investment of 4 million over two years, to raise awareness about sexually transmitted infections. We can debate whether or not that is sufficient or whether we need to do more, but I want to put that fact on record so that noble Lords do not think there is total inactivity in this area.

The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, will be amazed to know that I do not intend to comment in great detail on many of the points she raised, which seem to go wider than the Bills mentioned in the Queen's Speech that we are discussing today.

I should say to the noble Baroness and other noble Lords who raised the point that we recognise the relationship between domestic violence and child abuse. We know, for example, that one in three child protection cases shows a history of violence against the mother and, according to NSPCC estimates, 150 children a year are either killed or suffer serious injury at the hands of parents. So we understand the point made by the noble Baroness. I am sure that Home Office Ministers and others will study carefully some of the concerns she raised.

The noble Baroness, Lady Dean, made a number of points in regard to social housing, an issue to which she has made a major contribution. I am sure that my ministerial colleagues in ODPM and the Department for Work and Pensions will study very carefully her remarks on the pensions Bill.

I shall not attempt to emulate the tribute of the noble Earl, Lord Howe, to the noble Lord, Lord Colwyn, and his masterpiece—as the noble Earl put it—on dental services. I was extremely grateful for the noble Lord's supportive remarks on the progress we have made in this area. We are working with the profession and other stakeholders to ensure that the new arrangements will be brought in smoothly from April 2005.

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We plan to run the period 2004–05 as a shadow year. The dental practices will be protected through that transition period. We believe that the greater stability and security of the new contract will improve and support the goodwill value of dental practices. I make no bones about the fact that the noble Lord is right to raise these important issues. He has played a supportive role in taking us forward in this area.

The noble Lord is absolutely right about the workforce review. We need to make progress in this area. However, it is important to identify not only the shortfall between supply and demand for dental services but also how we might address those shortfalls. Work is going on in that area and we hope to publish the review and its recommendations before the end of this year.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Walliswood, raised a number of points on equality issues. The Government intend to streamline the complex rules and procedures relating to sex discrimination tribunal cases and will be consulting shortly on new rules. The intention is to bring these new regulations into effect towards the end of 2004. The Government have also taken the opportunity of the equal treatment directive last year to undertake early consultation on the principles of some of the provisions in that directive. We have now begun a legal analysis of the amended equal treatment directive. We will be looking at the responses and will consult again on new proposals for change in that area.

I shall not respond in detail to the very important points raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay. I confess to feeling occasionally rather queasy as she took us through some of the detail of those points; I am sure one or two other Members with a less strong disposition felt the same. But she made very important points, which we will study very carefully, as we take that Bill forward.

I thought that the noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, was not quite as calm and responsible as I am trying to be in his attack on the criminal injuries compensation area. May I give him a few figures? It is worth bearing in mind that in 1996—when, he will recall, this Government were not in office—the scheme was changed from one based on the amount one would have received under civil damages to a tariff-based scheme. I shall not run through all the figures, but in 1995–96, the spend was 179 million; the spend under this Government in 2002–03 was 232 million. So it is simply not true that the Government have cut back the spend in that area since coming to office. I hope that the noble Lord will consider that fact carefully before repeating that line of argument.

I share with others the pleasure of seeing my noble and right reverend friend Lord Sheppard back in his place. It is a great pleasure to have him speaking behind me in such an authoritative and supportive way about the national health service. I was extremely pleased that his experience of the national health service was so good and had such a successful outcome. I am always a little nervous when noble

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Lords tell me that they are going into hospital, wondering what they will tell me later. I was gratified that my noble friend's experience was so positive.

I, too, welcome my noble and right reverend friend's emphasis on the importance of primary care, especially in cities such as Liverpool. He is right in his expectation that the second Wanless report will report on primary care and prevention. I draw noble Lords' attention to the fact that in the changes that we are making in investment in the NHS, we are funding 2,700 more GPs, as well as some of the changes that were discussed in our consideration of the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003 to change the basis of funding and contracting in relation to primary care. So we are seeing a big boost in provision in that area.

A number of noble Lords raised issues on public health. We have had some good debates on obesity recently, and I have answered a Question on smoking. I am sure that everything that the Government say does not always convince everybody that we are doing enough in these areas. However, I think it is fair to say that there is a new energy in this agenda in and around preventive medicine and public health, and progress is starting to be made.

The noble Lord, Lord Addington, wants a more campaigning body on disability. The DWP is in the lead on this, but we could not raise anybody, so I shall have to write to the noble Lord.

My noble friend Lord Turnberg raised some very important issues which were picked up by others on and around research and development. He carefully wove those together with his remarks on regulatory bodies. I am grateful to him for his helpful contribution on how I might save 100 million in order to spend more on research and development. The Government are considering an important report on the number of regulators from the Better Regulation Task Force. Only a minority of the regulators listed in the report are under the remit of the Department of Health. Many are professional self-regulatory bodies which are brought together under their own counsel. However, a few days ago my right honourable friend the Secretary of State announced that there was to be a review of the 30-odd arm's length bodies that are involved, some of which my noble friend mentioned. We shall be looking very critically at whether they are fit for purpose in their current form and the added value that they bring.

One of my day jobs in the Department of Health, when I am not appearing before your Lordships' House, is as a bureaucracy-buster, so I can assure my noble friend that I take very seriously the points he made in this area.

We take very seriously the points my noble friend made on research and development. The Government have responded to the Cooksey report that he mentioned by setting up a working group under the chairmanship of Sir John Pattison, with NHS and

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industry representatives, that will have to report within six months on how we can take further forward the work in this area. We have put aside 10 million to seedcorn development in this area. The bottom line is that we have to do more to help more clinical trials take place in the NHS so that scientific discoveries can get faster to the bedside from the laboratory. We accept many of the points that my noble friend made.

The noble Lord, Lord Chan, made a number of important points on primary care and prevention. We support many of the points that he made.

The noble Baroness, Lady Wilkins, made an extraordinarily interesting and important speech about co-housing. We shall certainly draw that to the attention of my colleagues in the ODPM who will want to consider this carefully. However, I know that my right honourable friend the Deputy Prime Minister, who is responsible for housing policy, has choice in the forefront of his mind when it comes to government policy on housing, just as it is for health and social care. We are very sympathetic to the ideas that the noble Baroness mentioned in relation to co-housing communities. We wish to encourage this where it is the wish of older people. It is not an area in which one would want to impose.

I was very struck by the noble Baroness's reference to the organisation called OWCH. It confirmed my views and the experience of older members of my family. I have always thought that, when the need arises, older people have sharp elbows. I thought the action taken in that respect was very encouraging. I understand that the housing pilot project she mentioned is still under way. We look forward to learning its outcome for public policy. In the light of this, I am sure that my right honourable friend will consider the way forward. I can assure the noble Baroness that self-help for older people is a key part of our social care policy agenda.

I shall not spend a lot of time responding—


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