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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, that is not the position at all. It is clear that the original target can be met with men and women being nursed together in some circumstances—principally in emergency areas, including admission and assessment units. As regards some of the survey work that has been undertaken, the discrepancy between the number of trusts which are complying with the original target and the perception of patients in that regard concerns the distinction between mixed-sex

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wards and mixed-sex accommodation. Clearly, much more needs to be done. More also needs to be done to inform patients. However, I assure the noble Earl that we continue to see this as a priority. The Chief Nursing Officer will issue further guidance later this year. We are not at all complacent about this matter.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, I declare an interest having spent two nights last summer in a bay of an orthopaedic ward with two women and four men. I place on record my gratitude to the nurse who provided me with a pair of pyjama trousers in addition to my surgical gown. Does the noble Lord recognise that targets need to be changed to provide for a greater surplus of beds in hospitals in order to avoid the acute shortage of beds that left me in that position?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord looked most elegant in that outfit. Of course, it is important that individual hospitals have flexibility to ensure that targets can be delivered while ensuring that safety is a paramount concern. They have flexibility in the way in which wards are managed. However, central targets have ensured that waiting times for patients have been drastically reduced. The targets that we set in train from the centre dealt with mixed-sexed accommodation. Through those targets the health service understands the priority to be given to this important area. Of course, we want to reduce the number of targets, but there will always be a need for some central direction and guidance.

Armed Forces: Future Aircraft Carrier

2.59 pm

Lord Astor of Hever asked Her Majesty’s Government:

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): My Lords, I am sure that the whole House will join me in offering sincere condolences to the families and friends of Corporal John Rigby, who was killed on Friday during operations in Iraq, and of Drummer Thomas Wright, who was killed yesterday during operations in Afghanistan.

We intend to start building the two new aircraft carriers once we have agreed a robust and affordable deal.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, we, too, send our condolences to the family of Drummer Thomas Wright, and our thoughts are with those who were injured in the same explosion in Afghanistan. We also send our condolences to the family of Corporal John Rigby, particularly his twin brother Will, who was serving in the same battalion of the Rifles in Basra and will accompany his brother’s coffin back to Britain.

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Last year, the Minister told the House that industry consolidation was a precondition for signing the contract on the carriers, but the industry says that there can be no further consolidation unless the carriers are ordered. For how much longer are the Government content to play poker with the industry, with thousands of jobs and the future of the Royal Navy at stake? Do they still want the carriers?

Lord Drayson: My Lords, we absolutely want the carriers, and are prepared to play poker for as long as it takes to get them on the terms that we want.

Lord Chidgey: My Lords, we, too, on these Benches send our condolences to the families of the latest casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq, particularly those from the old Royal Green Jackets—now the Rifles—who were based at a depot in my old constituency near Winchester.

Do the Government continue to support a planned and managed approach to the restructuring of the warship-building industry and the significant benefits that it provides, including substantial savings, the de-risking of projects, the achievement of the future carrier target price, and the optimisation of export opportunities? What impact would a decision not to go ahead with the future carrier programme have on Britain’s international obligations and strategic ability to project power?

Lord Drayson: My Lords, this Government have invested more in building up a modern surface and submarine fleet than any in decades. The decisions that we have taken to ensure that we have the ships for a modern Navy are being implemented. We are robustly implementing the combination of that investment with a clear strategy for industry, published at the end of 2005. That is leading to industry making the changes that we need to get to the point where this country has a competitive shipbuilding industry that can continue to build the ships that the Navy needs in future. We do not need to begin contemplating what we do about not going ahead with the carriers; we just need to get the deal in place such that we can begin manufacture.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, if the ships are eventually built, is it intended that they will form part of the rapid reaction force?

Lord Drayson: No, my Lords. The purpose of the ships is to provide the centrepiece of the carrier strike force which was set out in the Strategic Defence Review in 1998. It is a fundamental pillar of the Government’s defence strategy.

Lord Cobbold: My Lords, what is the status of negotiations with France on the aircraft carriers?

Lord Drayson: My Lords, we agreed at the end of 2005 to work with France in licensing to it the design rights to the aircraft carriers. As it was able to use our work on its own aircraft carrier, it agreed to pay one-third of the costs through the development phase.

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That collaboration has gone well. We have been able to maintain the pace and cost of the British project without any negative impacts because of the structure of that collaboration with France.

Baroness Fookes: My Lords, what is the earliest date when we might expect the carriers, assuming that the original date is now completely obsolete?

Lord Drayson: My Lords, it is not obsolete. Do not assume because we have not signed the contracts on the building of the carriers that we are prepared to see any slippage on their implementation and coming into service.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire: My Lords, is the Minister confident that there will be aircraft appropriate to fly off the carriers when they are delivered? I see that at the recent air show there was a cardboard, plywood and papier mâché model of the JSF on display. How is the JSF making progress, and are we confident that it will be ready when the aircraft carriers are ready?

Lord Drayson: My Lords, an aircraft carrier without aircraft would be useless. I am pleased that the noble Lord saw a papier mâché model. If he was prepared to travel to the United States, he could see the real thing flying. It is going through its test flights very successfully, and it is a very impressive aircraft.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, have the vessels that were lost to the Iranians from HMS “Cornwall” been replaced? Have replacements even been ordered?

Lord Drayson: My Lords, they have absolutely been replaced. No loss of capability has followed from the loss of those two small boats to the Iranians.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, how is the STOVL version of JSF going?

Lord Drayson: My Lords, it is going really well. The STOVL version has the British technology, and it is the follow-up to the Harrier. It is British technology not only in the lift fan, which powers the short take-off and vertical landing aircraft, but in the technology around the manufacture of the aircraft.


3.06 pm

Lord Grocott: My Lords, with the leave of the House, a Statement will be repeated this afternoon on the European Union Council. It will be repeated by my noble friend the Leader of the House after the Statistics and Registration Service Bill, which is the first business.

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Liaison Committee

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara) rose to move, That the first report from the Liaison Committee be agreed to (HL Paper 118).

The report can be found at the following address:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Liaison Committee met recently to consider bids for an ad hoc Select Committee in succession to the Committee on Regulators. As the report makes clear, we recommend the establishment of an ad hoc Select Committee for one Session on intergovernmental organisations, with effect from the beginning of the next Session. I beg to move.

Moved, That the first report from the Liaison Committee be agreed to (HL Paper 118).—(The Chairman of Committees.)

Lord Soley: My Lords, in welcoming the report, I thank the members of the committee, and the Clerks for the enormous amount of help and advice that they have given, for the recommendation for an intergovernmental organisations Select Committee. It received enormous support and no opposition, and as that is such an extraordinary experience in my political career, I thought it worthy of comment.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Statistics and Registration Service Bill

3.07 pm

Read a third time.

Clause 10 [Code of Practice for National Statistics]:

Lord Jenkin of Roding moved Amendment No. 1:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of the amendment and the others grouped with it is to clear up a muddle from the Report stage last week. We wish to make it clear that the proposed code of practice, together with all the related duties, processes and procedures to be observed by the board and by Ministers, applies directly only to official statistics and not to statistics produced by other bodies such as public companies, universities or charities.

I remind noble Lords that official statistics, as they will be defined under Clause 9, cover the whole range of government statistics, whether produced centrally by the ONS or by the much wider range of government bodies, including departments, agencies, devolved Administrations and any other people acting on behalf of the Crown. Within that wide range, there is a narrower subset of so-called national statistics, which the Minister helpfully described last week as,

As the Bill arrived in this House from another place, the code of practice was expressly applied only to this narrower subset of national statistics.

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On Second Reading and in Committee, it was forcefully argued from these Benches, from the Liberal Democrat Benches and from the Cross Benches that that made no sense and that the code should apply to all official statistics. Wisely, Ministers accepted that advice and on Report, the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, tabled a series of amendments to leave out the word “national” in references to the code so that, for instance, Clause 10(1), to which my first amendment applies, now reads,

Of course, that covers all official statistics and so meets the substance of the arguments that we addressed to the Government.

However, that immediately opened up a further argument, which was succinctly put by my noble friend Lady Noakes last Monday. She said:

The Minister chose not to respond to that until right at the end of his reply to the debate, when he was prompted again by my noble friend. She said:

one is familiar with that formula—

It is worth reading in full the extraordinary exchanges that followed that question. The noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, said:

A moment later, the noble Lord, Lord Newby, intervened and said:

The noble Lord, Lord Davies, answered:

I must say that I am not quite sure that I followed that sentence. He continued:

That was the very first intimation throughout the entire progress of the Bill—we are now on Third Reading in the second House—that the code is intended

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by Ministers to apply to bodies beyond those that produce official statistics. The words that the Minister used seemed to recognise that that will be outside the remit of what will be the Statistics Board. Where does that leave us?

3.15 pm

Since that extraordinary debate, I have sought advice from a number of quarters. The reaction of the Statistics Commission—I have been in touch with a senior man, Richard Alldritt—was quite clear. He replied to me:

You can say that again.

I remind the House that the Statistics Commission has produced a draft code—

He went on to suggest that the right answer was,

That is exactly the amendment that we have tabled. There was a similar response from the RSS—the Royal Statistical Society, whose president, Tim Holt, replied:

From the professional side, there was a clear reply, and I shall return in a few moments to the suggestion about the spirit of the code.

I also consulted a number of organisations outside government—one major commercial company and one university institute. Earlier this month I attended a presentation by BP of its formidable annual Statistical Review of World Energy 2007. It covers a vast range of energy statistics, and was presented on that occasion by BP’s chief economist, Peter Davies, and his nominated successor, Christof RĂ1/4hl. When I asked for their reaction to the Minister’s statement, their response was:

BP is right to be concerned. More worryingly, there is no evidence that it or any other commercial company

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was consulted on the proposal. Indeed, there seems to have been no consultation whatever, so my first question to the Minister is: what consultations have there been on his suggestion that the code should, as I said earlier, apply as widely as possible to certain non-governmental organisations that produce statistics for the public realm? I have found no one who knew anything about it, so will the Minister say what consultations there have been?

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