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Lord Newby: My Lords, given that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is very fond of setting up committees of eminent persons to review matters of public policy, does the Minister agree that the Barnett formula should be reviewed by such an eminent group, and that no one is more eminent to lead that group than the noble Lord, Lord Barnett?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, in the short time that I have had this role, I have been for ever paying tribute to the eminence of my noble friend Lord Barnett.

Baroness Noakes: My Lords, the Minister will know that the Budget last week raised the proportion of tax in the tax-to-GDP ratio to a 20-year high. Will he commit the Government to carrying out the next spending review in a way that does not increase taxes yet further?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, the projections for the longer term set out what can be affordable, and the spending review will take place in the context of that framework. The precise framework will be explained in the 2007 Budget. I should point out that tax and national insurance as a percentage of GDP are lower than they were in the mid-80s under the government supported by the noble Baroness. Not only was tax higher then as a percentage of GDP, but so was net debt. That government were somehow able to produce higher taxes, greater debt and economic failure at the same time.

Lord Hurd of Westwell: My Lords, as we have no knowledge of a general election or, so far as I know, of any particularly interesting by-election, would the Minister revert to the normal custom of the House and answer the questions put to him?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I always seek to answer the questions. If the noble Lord would point
 
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out which questions I have not answered, I would be happy to try again. It is important that we inject the facts into our deliberations.

Lord Sheldon: My Lords, will my noble friend give a clear undertaking that the Barnett formula will be re-examined in this public expenditure review?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, it is not for me to give that undertaking, but I will certainly pass on our exchanges today to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I am sure that the matter will be taken into account.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, meritorious though the formula of the noble Lord, Lord Barnett, may be, it is much misunderstood. Will the Minister confirm that it applies only to increases in public expenditure?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I am not sure that I can confirm that from my own experience, but I will be happy to write to the noble Lord or seek guidance from my noble friend Lord Barnett. I very much see myself as an apprentice in such matters.

Lord Haskel: My Lords, will the Minister undertake to ensure that the review will continue to maintain low inflation and strengthen the economy by spending on skills, technology, research and innovation?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I am sure that each of those matters will be at the heart of the new spending review.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, I return to the Minister's Answer. Will he tell the House how the Treasury intends to embed efficiency into "long-term planning"?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, the Treasury will do so in part by carrying on what it has done to embed—for the first time in public expenditure planning—a performance management culture with targets, to see where the efficiencies recommended by Gershon can be achieved. It continues to deepen that culture and to see in a cross-cutting way how government, like local authorities, can deliver services better and more efficiently.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, in that case and following the answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Carnegy of Lour, will the Minister give priority to the Rural Payments Agency?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, it is not for me at the Dispatch Box to give priority to any of these matters. I am sure that the discussions that have taken place in your Lordships' House and elsewhere will be borne fully in mind in the delivery that the Government are intent on ensuring.

Lord Livsey of Talgarth: My Lords, will the Minister confirm to the House that, as regards the Barnett
 
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formula, GDP in Wales is lower than in the rest of the United Kingdom by double figures? We urgently need to reform it based on needs, which are very great in Wales.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I am sure that the interests and needs of Wales, Scotland, England and Northern Ireland will be fully taken into account in this spending review. When looking overall at what has been achieved in economic performance, outcomes and attainments for a range of services, we can see that it has been a very profound period of government.

Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, in relation to a previous question on the great initiative of embedding efficiency, has that concept been taken with regard to the National Health Service? If so, has it been a success?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: Yes, my Lords, it has been a success. If noble Lords look at the data, they will see that efficiencies have already been obtained in that service. I do not have the figure in my brief, but something like £2.2 billion springs to mind from an earlier briefing. Yes, there are particular difficulties with some trusts, which are a minority of the total trusts that operate throughout the UK. The overspends to which the noble Baroness may be referring are a tiny percentage of the total spend that the NHS undertakes, but the NHS, as every other service, will engage in the process to make sure that we continue to improve efficiencies, so that more funding can go to the front line, which is the key.

Prisons: Diet and Behaviour

3.16 pm

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking to apply the results of modern research into diet and behaviour to prisons.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): My Lords, the Government are committed to ensuring that prisoners receive a healthy diet. The recent report by the National Audit Office on prisoner diet and exercise is clear that the quality of prison catering has improved recently. Natural Justice has studied the relationship between diet and behaviour at Aylesbury young offender institution. The Prison Service has offered to host research in additional establishments, subject to appropriate ethical and quality approval, on whether the findings can be replicated more widely.

Lord Beaumont of Whitley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. While not wishing to suggest that the kind of chemical control that those of my generation who did National Service unanimously believe was imposed on us is being used now, may I suggest that the definition of "a healthy diet", as
 
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I think the Minister confirmed, includes the kind of findings that will lead to a diminution of aggressiveness and violent behaviour?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord that a healthy diet is of real importance. Noble Lords will know that, since Sir Stephen Tumim made his report in 1991, we have made trenchant efforts to change the availability and quality of the food provided in our prisons to good effect, as has been demonstrated this month by the 2006 NAO report. The whole point of agreeing to facilitate the research is to see whether something may be contributed through diet and behaviour.

Lord Waddington: My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of Natural Justice. Is it not encouraging that the work that it has done over the years to establish the connection between diet and behaviour is becoming more recognised every day?

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: My Lords, it is important work. As I indicated, we are seeking to facilitate the further testing of that. We wait with interest to see whether the outcomes are as good as many hope they will be.

Lord Harrison: My Lords, does my noble friend recognise the needs of diabetic prisoners, including their dietary needs, and the problem of people believing to be violent behaviour that which is attributable to a hypoglycaemic episode? Does she also recognise the plight of one prisoner currently in Her Majesty's detention who is unable to marry meal times with his insulin injections, which need to be taken shortly before meals?


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