|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
We are pushing for increased action through the inter-agency task team on children and AIDS which was set up to accelerate co-ordinated action and build consensus on priority topics. Indeed, today in Washington DfID officials are participating in a meeting of the inter-agency task team to scale up the response for children affected by AIDS. The UK was also the second largest donor to UNICEF in 2006, providing a total of £105 million. This helped to fund child protection programmes that ensure that children and adolescents vulnerable to HIV infection can access and use prevention information, skills and services. I note the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, that perhaps we should be talking about outcomes and the number of people we help rather than the number of pounds we spend. However, there is a direct correlation between the number of pounds spent and the people affected in a good way. DfID is also working with UNICEF to support national action plans for children affected by AIDS in six countries in Africa, and we are providing an additional £5 million specifically for advocacy and capacity development behind the objectives of the campaign, Unite for Children, Unite against AIDS.
Many noble Lords rightly raised the matter of mother-to-child transmission. DfID is increasing its focus on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission and is working hard to make paediatric treatment more available. The UK was a founder member of UNITAID, the new drugs purchase facility established in 2006. Last year we pledged €20 million, a figure that will rise to €60 million annually by 2010 if performance justifies it as part of a 20-year commitment. One of UNITAIDs first decisions was to approve a $61 million investment in anti-retroviral treatment for up to 100,000 children in 2007. I believe that these strategies are making a difference.
The noble Baroness, Lady Northover, asked what the Government thought Chancellor Merkel would do in the G8 under the German presidency this year. There is a focus on the feminisation of the AIDS epidemic. This provides an opportunity to explore how the global community, and the G8 in particular, can place more emphasis on meeting the needs of women and girls, including mother-to-child transmission. The UK is actively engaging in these discussions, which will lead up to the G8 summit in Germany.
The noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, raised various issues on medicines. The UK Government are working with the Medicines Transparency Alliance and with country, multilateral and civil society partners to build support for transparency in medicines procurement and supply and to help drive out corruption, excessive mark-ups and inefficiencies. Hilary Benn opened the first stakeholder meeting in London on 18 April.
DfIDs bilateral programmes also directly support children affected by AIDS. For example, in Kenya we are working with the ministry of health to provide home-based care to over 60,000 people living with AIDS and over 100,000 orphans and vulnerable children. In Zimbabwe, DfID is providing £25 million to non-governmental organisations and their community partners to protect orphans and other vulnerable children from all forms of abuse and increase their access to basic social services. The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, spoke of the dreadful situation in Zimbabwe and asked if our national strategy is being exercised at the expense of local strategies. DfIDs approach to AIDS employs a range of instruments. Poverty reduction budget support is one of these, but the most recent assessments suggest that it is only a small proportion of total AIDS spending. It is important that funds get through to the organisations that provide direct support to those living with and affected by AIDS. Community-based organisations clearly have a very important role and an important contribution to make.
A key modality of DfID support to major NGO activities in the area of AIDS is through strategic partnership programme agreements. Under those agreements, partners such as Christian Aid and Oxfam work through local organisations at the country level. DfID also supports community-based organisations through its bilateral programmes, often through multi-donor pooled funds behind national AIDS councils or challenge funds, to develop good practice and encourage voice and accountability, as in the case of Zimbabwe.
The UK is tackling the wider issues that make girls and young women particularly vulnerable to HIV by supporting, in countries from Bangladesh to Zimbabwe and Uganda to Bolivia, programmes that empower girls and young women to control key aspects of their lives, including sexual matters. As noble Lords will know, the UK will spend £8.5 billion in support of education over the next 10 years, and education, especially for girls, is like a social vaccine against HIV.
DfID supports the work of the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, and I pay tribute to that excellent organisation for its work in empowering and maintaining contact with women living with HIV all over the world, sharing lifesaving information about their health and rights and influencing policies and attitude. Its work is especially important in countering the dreadful stigma mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady Masham of Ilton, which prevents people getting the support and the help that they need. Many noble Lords have spoken of the need for pregnant mothers to be tested for HIV and AIDS, but too many pregnant mothers do not want to be tested for HIV because of the stigma that a positive result could bring, not to mention something like domestic violence. These are difficult issues that have to be addressed.
The noble Lord, Lord Roberts of Llandudno, spoke of the concerns of grandparents. Predictable, regular cash transfers to households looking after children affected by AIDS can be a simple and cost-effective way to ensure that children stay in a family environment and get the protection, nutrition, education and healthcare that they need. DfID is supporting that approach in seven African countries, and we hope we will build on that.
My noble friend Lady Whitaker and the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, rightly mentioned the importance of research and the need to evaluate the impact. The UK has been active in developing innovative financing to encourage R&D investment into treatments and vaccines for diseases such as HIV and AIDS. Among others, DfID provides financial support for research to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Joint Learning Initiative on children and HIV/AIDS, whose goal is to protect and fulfil the rights of children affected by HIV/AIDS by mobilising the scientific evidence base and producing actionable recommendations for policy and practice. Like the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, I pay tribute to the many voluntary organisations that are working with people with AIDS, especially with children with HIV and AIDS. In response to his question, I do not expect that the Home Office points system for immigration will affect people coming to this country for training, but if I am wrong I will certainly write to noble Lords. That is something I must explore further.
The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, spoke about Angola. Yes, we recognise the activities to support HIV and AIDS awareness in that country. DfIDs main support for HIV/AIDS in Angola is provided through two grants to UNICEF. One is a general grant of £3.5 million over two years, and the other is a regional grant of £18 million for UNICEFs work on HIV/AIDS with orphans and vulnerable children in southern Africa, from which Angola stands to benefit. In response to the noble Earls questions about monitoring, several agencies are monitoring the HIV situation in Angola, including the WHO, UNAIDS, UNICEF and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
DfID is fully committed to leading international efforts to tackle HIV and AIDS. Much work is under way, but of course I understand and agree that more needs to be done to ensure that children have access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. International leadership is crucial for that. We look to the 2007 G8 summit, with its focus on Africa and strengthening health systems, to signal the international communitys renewed commitment to combating AIDS and to achieving the target of universal access to AIDS services by 2010. Working together, we must turn that commitment into action so that we can combat AIDS and its profound effect across the world, especially on our children.
The noble Lord said: Amendments Nos. 31 and 32 probe the circumstances around the departure from the board of one of the executive members. Clause 4 lays out how a non-executive member may resign or be removed but Clause 5 contains no such detail.
The amendments ensure two things: first, an executive member of the board is automatically removed from his position as an executive director if he is no longer employed by the board. That would not prevent him or her being reappointed to the board in a non-executive capacity if that was thought desirable. Secondly, if an executive member of the board resigns, it does not mean that he has automatically terminated his employment by the board. This would seem sensible: a conscientious and useful employee might leave the board for a number of reasons but could still be a good employee of the Office for National Statistics. I look forward to the Ministers response to the amendments. I beg to move.
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: As we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Howard, Amendments Nos. 31 and 32 seek to ensure that the non-executives are able to remove the executives from the board. Amendment No. 31 states that an executive member of the board should cease to be an executive member of the board if he is no longer employed by the board. This is unnecessary, as Clauses 3(6) and 5(2) make it clear that executive members of the board will always be employees of the board. Therefore, if an executive is no longer an employee, he cannot be on the board. To answer the noble Lords point, I am absolutely sure that if an executive ceases to be a member of the board and an employee but makes a valuable contribution, he can of course be rehired as a member of staff.
Amendment No. 32 would allow the non-executives to remove executive members from the board by notice in writing, although this would not constitute cessation of employment by the board. Again, this is unnecessary as Clause 3(6) already enables this to happen.
The noble Lord said: This is a probing amendment to establish exactly what the Government intend by this subsection, which gives the Minister extraordinary powers over not only the resources of the board but also the number of employees it may have.
Beyond the most broad-brush requirements, the board should be trusted to employ as it sees fit. After all, the Government will keep control of fundingby far the most effective method of preventing unnecessary expansion. It is nonsensical to set up this board and
24 Apr 2007 : Column 639
Lord Evans of Temple Guiting: As we have heard from the noble Lord, Lord Howard, Amendment No. 33 would remove the Minister for the Civil Services role in approving overall numbers of board employees. This provision was debated in the Public Bill Committee in the other place. However, for the benefit of noble Lords, we are happy to discuss it here, too.
This provision of the Bill, requiring the approval of the Minister for the Civil Service as to the numbers and terms and conditions of employment of staff, is a fairly standard provision in legislation creating non-ministerial departments where staff will be civil servants. The purpose of the clause is to preserve cohesion across the Civil Service, subject to local delegations. A similar clause can be found, for example, in the Food Standards Act 1999 in respect of the Food Standards Agency. It does not mean that individual appointments will have to be brought before the Minister for the Civil Service, but rather that the Minister for the Civil Service will set general limits on numbers and guidance on terms and conditions of service.
Before concluding my brief remarks on this group of amendments, I take this opportunity to flag up the fact that we may have to amend Clause 5 on Report. As it stands, Clause 5(7) provides for all employees of the board to be civil servants, whereas it has recently come to light that ONS employs some field work staff, who undertake surveys and other similar tasks, who are Crown servants. Work is ongoing, but our intention when the Bill was drafted was to ensure continuity of conditions for those staff currently employed by ONS. I will be sure to update noble Lords on our intentions in this regard as soon as I am able.
Lord Howard of Rising: I thank the Minister for his comments. The clause refers as much to terms as it does to numbers. I still think that it is impossible to create a body with a board of directors and then appoint somebody else to tell them how to do their job, because one then has a civil servant, a board of directors and an executive director. Things do not work like that in the real world. I may wish to refer to this matter on Report. In the mean time, I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
The noble Baroness said: I shall speak also to Amendments Nos. 48 and 114. These amendments concern trust in statistics. At Second Reading, several
24 Apr 2007 : Column 640
As I made clear at Second Reading and in my opening remarks on Amendment No. 1, we shall judge the Bill by whether it is the best way in which to achieve the highest degree of public trust in statistics. I am not sure that the Government have the same approach. I read very carefully the remarks of the Minister at Second Reading, both his opening remarks and winding-up speech, and he never once used the word trust. It was as if his briefing notes from the Bill team had marked in capital letters in the file, DO NOT USE THE WORD TRUST. In the final paragraph of the Ministers opening speech at Second Reading, he said:
The Bill is a step forward in what will be a major and evolving programme of reform. It holds out the possibility of substantially improving the quality of and confidence in government statistics.[Official Report, 26/3/07; col. 1449.]
the Minister talked about the possibility of improvementnot the absolute aim and commitment to achieving high levels of equality and confidence. Of course, he avoided the t word. I have heard the Minister use the word trust today, which may be an encouraging sign, but when he comes to reply to the amendment will he say whether the Government genuinely have public trust at the heart of their aspirations for the new statistical arrangements, or is this word no longer allowed to be used in connection with them?
Whatever the Government think, we believe that the aim of gaining high levels of public trust should be at the heart of the Bill. Amendment No. 35 would amend Clause 7, which sets out the objective of the board, which is currently expressed as,
We have no problem with that. Indeed, the reference to public good arose out of an amendment tabled by my honourable friend Mr Michael Fallon in Committee in another place. However, we believe that it should go further and say that the objective is also,
I am sure that there is an argument that official statistics do not serve the public good if they do not
24 Apr 2007 : Column 641
Amendment No. 48 positively requires the board to carry out research to determine the level of public trust. I am sure that I was not alone in being shocked at the findings of the ONSs research. We need that research undertaken regularly and published, as the amendment also requires, so that we always keep in public view the issue of trust. We all, I am sure, earnestly hope that the headlines will one day be so boring that the newspapers will shun them, and 99 per cent believe that official statistics are totally trustworthy will get no space in the media. But we are a long way from that, which is why we should keep the research going.
Lastly, Amendment No. 114 amends Clause 25 of the Bill so that the boards annual report must deal with the issue of public trust. We should never be shy of stating the obvious in legislation. I beg to move.
Lord Davies of Oldham: I should begin with an apology if I did not mention trust in the Second Reading debate. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury has said many times in the other place that the Government share what is no doubt the ultimate goal of the amendments tabled by the noble Baronessthat these reforms and this legislation will help to rebuild and bring greater public trust and confidence in official statistics. The problem with the amendments, as the noble Baroness will recognise, is that they translate an ambition that we all share and which I might add is important to the Bill into a statutory responsibility on the board for delivering high levels of public trust in its official statistics. We certainly look forward to the board successfully delivering exactly that but it is a different matter saying that it is accountable in statute for so doing.
Amendment No. 35 places an obligation on the board to ensure high levels of public trust in official statistics. That is what we all hope for, but it may be an unreasonable obligation to place on it. The noble Lord, Lord Moser, who I am glad to see in his place, said at Second Reading:
Trust, however, is a complex matter. For one thing, trust in statistics is part and parcel of trust in government themselves, and, indeed, in politicians in general.[Official Report, 26/3/07; col. 1454.]
|Next Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|