Baroness Cox: My Lords, having returned last night from the region, may I ask the Minister whether he is aware that the plight of the ethnic national groups, such as the Karen, the Karenni, the Shan, the Rohingya and the Kachin peoples, continues to
 
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deteriorate as the SPDC military offensives continue against innocent civilians? More than 60,000 Karen have been displaced since 2006 and more than 80,000 Karenni are living in hiding in the jungle. The Minister has said that DfID has been increasing its aid, but last year there was a commitment to cross-border aid and we have been told that so far none of that has materialised. Why has there been such a delay and can the position of cross-border aid, which is needed by those people in order to survive, be addressed urgently?

Lord Bach: My Lords, we certainly appreciate the huge difficulties of the ethnic minority population in Burma. We are of course talking with Burma’s neighbours, where the refugee problem is great indeed. The noble Baroness should be pleased, though, that we are going to double our humanitarian aid in the next few years. As regards what the noble Baroness says is a lack of progress over the past year or so, I will write to her.

Health: Tuberculosis

3 pm

Baroness Sharples asked Her Majesty’s Government:

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, the UK provides support for TB control through its funding to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria; through bilateral country programmes; through organisations such as the World Health Organisation; and through new research evidence and drugs. The Prime Minister, then Chancellor, launched the Global Plan to Stop TB with former President Obasanjo, of Nigeria, and Bill Gates, co-chair of the Gates Foundation, in 2006.

Baroness Sharples: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that reply. I had TB at the age of 15. With the spread of large-scale TB and HIV co-infection, and, now, drug-resistant TB nearer to home, do we test immigrants when they come from the worst-affected countries? Perhaps we cannot catch up with them when they disappear into the system; I gather a lot of immigrants disappear and we do not know where they are.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, it is interesting that the noble Baroness said that she had had TB. A third of the world’s population has the TB bacteria. The total number of cases of TB in the UK in 2006 was 8,479; that is the latest figure we have. Of that, 72 per cent of new TB cases were non-UK born. However, the vast majority of these cases only develop active disease after they have been in the UK for at least two years, and often much longer than that.

The noble Baroness asked about screening. Of course, we have a long-standing policy, as the noble
 
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Baroness will know. Anyone who appears unwell, mentions health problems or medical treatment and is seeking entry for more than six months will be screened. As the noble Baroness will know, there is a list of high-prevalence countries for which there is screening.

Lord Brookman: My Lords, the recruitment of health professionals is of great concern in this House and elsewhere. What, if anything, are the Government doing to discourage—as I believe they should—recruitment of such professionals from developing countries where their skills are critically required?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, my noble friend is right. We have a code of practice that embodies ethical principles for international recruitment of health workers, and an agreed list of developing countries that should not be targeted for their health workers. The UK has systematic policies to prevent the targeting of developing countries.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, what is being done to ensure that the British medical profession is adequately trained in the diagnosis of tuberculosis? I ask because a neighbour of mine, who died a very short time ago, had been treated in hospital and by her GP for some time, and was found when she died to have had advanced but undiagnosed tuberculosis.

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, my briefing mainly deals with the problem of diagnostics on the global scene. However, I agree with the noble Lord that there is a real problem of diagnosis whether we are talking about the UK or internationally. There is a need for rapid tests that correctly identify people with the disease. If we are talking globally, those tests must be easy to use at a local level. I will write to the noble Lord on what the UK is specifically doing internally to ensure that combating TB is strengthened. I know that the National Health Service is looking carefully at strengthening its TB policy.

The Lord Bishop of Southwell and Nottingham: My Lords, given that most cases of TB are being diagnosed through sputum microscopy, a technique that is more than 100 years old, what role is being played by Her Majesty's Government, the universities and the pharmaceutical industry to help develop more rapid and effective diagnostic tools including those that will diagnose drug-resistant TB and people with the TB/HIV co-infection?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, the UK is doing a great deal to try not to be complacent about the problems that the twin epidemics—the twin scourges—of TB and HIV, to which the right reverend Prelate referred, present. We are supporting a number of programmes on AIDS/TB co-infection through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and UNITAID, a new drugs-purchase facility of which the right reverend Prelate will be aware. DfID is currently working to update its strategy on tackling HIV and AIDS. HIV/TB co-infection is included in that strategy,
 
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which has had wide consultation. There is a problem about diagnostics, as I said earlier: they are out of date, and we have to put more focus on, and funding into, updating them.

Lord Patel: My Lords, the Minister said that we have a list of countries and that people coming from those countries are screened. What screening is carried out?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, the screening process is that under the Immigration Act 1971, immigration officers at ports of entry have powers to refer passengers subject to immigration control for medical examination on arrival. They look at the person’s health. People claiming asylum at ports are routinely referred to the port medical inspector, and at Heathrow and Gatwick airports X-ray equipment is available.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: My Lords, what is being done to co-ordinate the battle against HIV and TB? How are the Government facing the need? The World Health Organisation suggests that we might be short of 4 million health workers. What are we doing to encourage the training of more health workers?

Baroness Crawley: My Lords, we launched the international health partnership directly to address the problem of the shortage of international health workers. If we look at the example of Malawi, we see that, as a result of our work with the partnership, in the first six months of the programme more than 500 new health workers were trained. The shortage is a continual problem, but we are focused on it and are determined to overcome it. On the twin epidemics of TB and HIV, we are supporting many programmes on AIDS, TB and TB/HIV co-infection through the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and UNITAID, as well as efforts to tackle AIDS and TB in specific countries, such as China, India and South Africa.

Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (Amendment) Regulations 2008

3.07 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government (Baroness Andrews): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (Amendment) Regulations 2008 laid before the House on 6 March be approved. 13th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, Considered in Grand Committee on 25 March.—(Baroness Andrews.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.


 
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Legislative Reform (Health and Safety Executive) Order 2008

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the Legislative Reform (Health and Safety Executive) Order 2008 laid before the House on 18 February be approved. 6th Report from the Regulatory Reform Committee, Considered in Grand Committee on 25 March.—(Lord McKenzie of Luton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Official Statistics Order 2008

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the Official Statistics Order 2008 laid before the House on 26 February be approved. 12th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, Considered in Grand Committee on 25 March.—(Lord Davies of Oldham.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications and Deemed Applications) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2008

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications and Deemed Applications) (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2008 laid before the House on 27 February be approved. 12th Report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, Considered in Grand Committee on 25 March.—(Lord Bassam of Brighton.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House Committee: Fourth Report

3.09 pm

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara) rose to move, That the fourth report from the Select Committee (HL Paper 78) be agreed to.

The report can be found at http://www.publications. parliament.uk/pa/ld200708/ldselect/ldhouse/78/78.pdf

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I will first introduce the committee's report and then deal with the issue raised by the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne, at the appropriate point.

The report makes a recommendation for the restructuring of the senior management in the House of Lords, following the retirement of the current holder of the post of the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, Sir Michael Willcocks, in May 2009. The Clerk of the Parliaments has reviewed the responsibilities of Black Rod's post and found that a very significant increase
 
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in Black Rod's responsibilities has taken place in recent years, due largely to heightened security needs, the acquisition of additional buildings on the parliamentary estate and the increasingly demanding works programme.

The management of the works and estates has become a major and vital responsibility, which requires its own professional expertise. In response to this, the House Committee has recommended that the senior management team should be strengthened with a new post of Director of Facilities, reporting directly to the Clerk of the Parliaments. The new director would have responsibility for works, accommodation, facilities and certain services. The post-holder would be responsible for the largest single element of the House of Lords budget. It is therefore appropriate that the new post-holder be a member of the Management Board.

I will enlarge on that point in the light of the amendment tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Trefgarne. It is important not to underestimate the significance of the role which the new Director of Facilities will perform. The committee takes the view that there is now a real need for the House to acquire the type of professional expertise proposed here. Works and estates have taken on tremendous importance in recent years, especially due to the pressure on accommodation. I need not tell your Lordships that the House is much busier than it once was. Average daily attendance has shot up; overall activity levels are at an unprecedented high; and with that the demand for office space and meeting rooms has risen dramatically.

The House administration has responded to those challenges by investing in the Millbank island site. Plans are well developed to refurbish 1 Millbank to become the location of choice for Back-Bench Members. The Millbank island site is a tremendous undertaking with many far-reaching effects on the arrangements for the accommodation of Members and staff. The scope of that project alone justifies the recruitment of a Director of Facilities.

However, there are other long-term projects for this estate. The House is about to begin substantial work on the mechanical and electrical services of the palace and major repairs to its roofs. I do not anticipate that the new post-holder will be underemployed once the Millbank site is operational. The Director of Facilities will also undertake supervisory responsibility for the Refreshment Department. At present, that responsibility rests with the Director of Human Resources, to whom the Head of Catering Services reports. The new Director of Facilities will not have day-to-day operational responsibility for the catering facilities; that duty will remain with the Head of Catering Services.

The portfolio of the Director of Facilities will be of such significance to the House and to the public purse that it is imperative that the post-holder reports directly to the Clerk of the Parliaments. The individual appointed to the post is also likely to be of a grade that will make it necessary for him or her to report to the Clerk of the Parliaments. The Clerk of the Parliaments, who as head of the administration is responsible for determining the membership of the Management Board, has advised
 
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that the significance of the new role will be so great as to require the new director to be a member of the Management Board.

I turn to the other side of the coin and explain how the new arrangements will affect the holder of the post of Black Rod. The appointment of a Director of Facilities will enable the holder of the post of Black Rod to focus on the more traditional aspects of the role as Gentleman Usher, Secretary to the Lord Great Chamberlain and Serjeant at Arms. Those roles carry responsibility for such vital duties as security, order in the House, the Doorkeepers, ceremonial duties and events, public access and the Sovereign’s residual estate at Westminster. We will therefore look to the new post-holder to have all the experience and expertise that have traditionally been required of that post. Black Rod would continue to report directly to the Clerk of the Parliaments and would be a member of the Management Board.

Black Rod’s role would continue to be largely similar to that of many of the previous holders of the post of Black Rod. Works and estates is a relatively recent addition to the portfolio of Black Rod’s responsibilities, which arose in 1991 when both Houses took over responsibility for works and estates following the Ibbs review. We are in large measure reverting to a previous pattern. Buckingham Palace has been consulted on the proposed changes and is content. I can therefore assure the House that there is no diminution of the importance of Black Rod’s traditional role.

It is a recognised imperative that Black Rod and the Director of Facilities would work closely together and be easily and readily accessible and responsive to Members. The House Committee has emphasised the importance of the continued provision of efficient services to Members under the new arrangements. Indeed, I emphasise that Members’ needs are at the forefront of the proposals for restructure. A working group of officials has been established to consider the detailed arrangements of the division of responsibilities, and the House Committee will consider its recommendations in due course.

I pay tribute to the work of our current Black Rod, Sir Michael Willcocks, and am pleased to say that his appointment will be extended for a further year to May 2009 so that he can assist in the introduction of this important change. The House is invited to agree the recommendations set out in paragraph 6 of the report. I beg to move.

Moved, That the fourth report from the Select Committee (HL Paper 78) be agreed to.—(The Chairman of Committees.)

3.15 pm

Lord Trefgarnerose to move, as an amendment to the Motion, at end to insert

“save for the words

“the Management Board member” in paragraph 3,

“Both post-holders would be members of the Management Board.” in paragraph 4, and

“the Management Board member” in paragraph 6(a),


 
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and with the addition of the words “The post-holder would not be a member of the Management Board.” at the end of paragraph 6(a).”

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Brabazon, for inviting us to agree to the House Committee report, but I am afraid that I have to disagree with much of what he said. I hold no brief for the present Black Rod; he is a distinguished former officer. As it happens, I knew his predecessor rather better, having served with him in the Ministry of Defence. The plain fact is that we have benefited over the years from a succession of very distinguished former officers who became Black Rod, and I pay tribute to all of them in their time.

The position of Black Rod, held as it is by a former senior military officer, reflects the competence of such people to hold that position. Our Armed Forces are a huge business by any standards. They have all the problems and all the activities that we have in this palace, so it is completely appropriate that a former military officer should hold the position of Black Rod, as he will have held similar responsibilities during his career. They all come to us with a distinguished background and great competence, so the idea that a senior officer cannot carry out these duties is absurd.