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House of Lords

Wednesday, 6 May 2009.

3 pm

Prayers—read earlier at the Judicial Sitting by the Lord Bishop of Salisbury.

EU: Budget


3.01 pm

Asked By Lord Campbell of Alloway

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the level of UK net contributions to the European Community budget is affected by a range of factors, including the size of the in-year EC annual budgets, the rate of UK economic growth and the level of budget receipts. It is right that the wealthier member states are net contributors to the budget. Our net contribution across the current budget period is predicted to be in line with countries of similar wealth.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that response. As he will know, the Government strove in vain to rectify the unacceptable regime of the EC, where the contributions to which the noble Lord referred are projected from accounts that cannot be justified, for reasons that were spoken to on 31 March. What are we to do about it—if we are not to walk away—other than apply to the federal court to seek to establish a reformed regime, acceptable to the Court of Auditors, which will give us a statement of assurance on the accounts so that the increases can then be justified?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, as the noble Lord did last time, when he asked a similar Question, he analyses the problem without producing a particularly constructive or helpful solution to it.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Lord Davies of Oldham:My Lords, the House will appreciate that, if such a solution were available, all—or the majority of—European states would follow the strategy. However, the issues are more complex because the problems with accounting in the European budget are largely the fault of expenditure that is partly controlled by the member states; so it will not do to say that the issue relates directly to the European Commission or any other institution. Member states, too, must improve their standards of accountancy and effectiveness, which is exactly what the United Kingdom has been doing.

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Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that there is no great merit in voting for the enlargement of the European Union to take in all those poorer countries of what was central and eastern Europe unless we are prepared to pay some of the costs to help their economies meet the standards of the market economy that they committed to join. On the question raised by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, about the statement of assurance, has my noble friend made any progress on the suggestion that I put to him when this issue was raised a few weeks ago that we might approach the European Commission to see whether we can get a group of statisticians to look at the basis of the statistical sampling on which the statement of assurance is based?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, as my noble friend would expect, I moved with alacrity after he made that constructive suggestion when we discussed this issue previously. I am pleased to report that officials are meeting next week to take further the issue of the statistical analysis. My noble friend will be generous enough to recognise that this is a small dimension of the larger issue of the European accounts.

Lord Waddington: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that there is one obvious reason for the increase in our contribution: the surrender by Tony Blair of part of our rebate, which he solemnly promised only two years earlier that he would never give away? Is it not also obvious that that surrender was for nothing? The noble Lord, Lord Tomlinson, mentioned enlargement, but that had been agreed, had it not, before the surrender by Tony Blair? Is it not an absolute scandal that the extra money raised, in part by the abandonment of our rebate, did not in the main go to the new entrants? Ireland got more per head than Lithuania, Slovakia and Poland.

Lord Davies of Oldham: Yes, my Lords, but is the noble Lord not guilty of straining at a gnat? Is it not the case that in terms of overall public expenditure in Britain by the Government, the rebate is a fractional point of 1 per cent of that? It is a useful stick for those who are root and branch opposed to Europe and its expansion, to which my noble friend alluded a moment ago. It brings us to the largest single market in the world but it is a useful stick for those who are opposed to that expansion to beat the Government with. Nevertheless, it is not real economics.

Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, is it not the case that the thesis, “We want our money back”, is demeaning for a country in our position in the world after the G20 and all the commitments that we have entered into? The Conservative Party policy, “We want our money back”, would mean that there would be no EU, which is what the Conservatives are driving at.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, taken to a logical conclusion, that would undoubtedly be the case, but did the party opposite ever take any of its policies to a logical conclusion? The issue is surely that of course we anticipated that there would be some increase in the size of the European budget to take account of enlargement, but those costs are properly

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borne not just by us but by the French, by the Germans and by other significant economies in Europe with whom on the whole in other respects we are proud to be aligned.

Lord Newby: My Lords, will the Minister accept from these Benches that we support the European project but that we have not viewed with approval the way in which the Government have failed to get a more fundamental reform of the CAP? Can we have an assurance that the Government will continue pressing to reform the CAP on its merits and to demonstrate to members on the Conservative Benches that on balance the EU is very beneficial to the UK?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the noble Lord will accept that there have been some improvements with regard to the CAP, but he is right that the reforms that have taken place in Europe fall far short of the ambitions of this country for a significant reform of the CAP which carries all the hallmarks of economies several decades past. The Government stay committed to the position that they intend to strive for reform of the CAP as soon as we can obtain it.

Lord Jones of Birmingham: My Lords—

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, we are in the ninth minute. It is time to move on to the Question on chronic pain.

Health: Chronic Pain


3.09 pm

Asked By Lord Luce

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, we welcome the recommendations on the management of chronic pain in the Chief Medical Officer’s 2008 annual report. Many of the recommendations are already in line with existing guidance and practice in the NHS. We will consider what further action may be needed in the context of advice from the National Quality Board on clinical priorities for the NHS.

Lord Luce: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that positive reply. Does she accept that the 8 million or so people of all ages who suffer from chronic pain can do a surprising amount for themselves to control their pain provided that they have access to multidisciplinary pain management teams? In view of the fact that only 14 per cent of them have access to any pain specialist, will she urge the Government to give the highest possible priority to implementing the Chief Medical Officer’s recommendation—to use his own words—

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Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for bringing this important issue to the attention of the House and recognise that, in the tradition of the House, he has been persistent in his questioning and championing of this issue. He is absolutely right that we cannot have people accepting pain and using expressions such as, “I musn’t grumble” or, “I suppose I’m not too bad today”, as they have in the past. We are delighted that our Chief Medical Officer has taken this issue so seriously in his report, which is independent and will be received in the spirit in which it is meant. We are taking action already in line with his recommendations and we will definitely take them further after the National Quality Board has given its advice.

Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, my noble friend will know that I am an ankylosing spondylitis sufferer, which means that I live in constant pain. I wonder whether she has had time to consider the call by Anne Begg MP in the other place for a national advocate—a champion—who could deal with issues of pain and co-ordinate research by all the medical institutions and companies throughout the United Kingdom. These organisations are currently doing a lot of work but a lot of it overlaps.

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, although I know that my noble friend has an aversion to words such as champion or tsar, I will use the word champion. We welcome the contribution that, for example, members of the British Pain Society have made to the improvement of chronic services, and this is one of their demands. We will consider the need for a national champion in the light of the advice which we receive on the priorities for clinical improvement that were outlined by our Chief Medical Officer. Our view is that such appointments need to be made very selectively as they inevitably raise expectations, but following a detailed national strategy and the possibility of ring-fenced funding. So we have not ruled this out and we will be considering it.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, are any specialist nurses trained to deal with chronic pain? If not, what plans do the Government have to introduce such training? Specialist nurses have been very helpful to patients in all sorts of fields.

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, the noble Baroness raises a very important point. Indeed, the Chief Medical Officer’s report pointed specifically to the training that medical staff should receive in the treatment of chronic pain. We have discussed the CMO’s recommendations with the Nursing and Midwifery Council and asked it to consider putting new professional standards into its training on precisely this subject.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, do the Government recognise that there is need for an all-systems approach to improve the management of pain? Undergraduates in nursing and medicine all need to know that they have learning outcomes in the assessment and management of pain which are examined in their final exams and become part of the revalidation procedures. The public also need education in what to expect from analgesics and in how they can help

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themselves to cope with chronic pain. Postgraduate training is needed for the safe and appropriate prescribing of analgesics and the use of other therapies such as those championed by the chronic pain management programmes.

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, as ever, the noble Baroness gives me more information than I am likely to give her. She is absolutely right. We accept that more needs to be done to ensure that all patients have access to high-quality pain services, including pain management, and we intend to grow the number of expert patients—that is, people who are supported in the management of their conditions and the pain that they experience.

Baroness Barker: My Lords, will the department enable staff of care homes and nursing homes to develop pain management skills above and beyond the administration of analgesic drugs?

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I think that the last time this issue was discussed in the House the noble Baroness mentioned the Help the Aged and Patients Association reports about older people. Of course, we believe that older people should be treated with dignity and respect and that they should receive appropriate and humane care in all care settings. Therefore, we welcome those two reports as important contributions to this debate. We will review the individual recommendations addressed to the Government in the light of advice and the discussion that is taking place with the National Quality Board.

The Lord Bishop of Ripon and Leeds: My Lords, what note have the Government been able to take of the wide experience of hospices in the management of pain? Is there movement to take account of that experience in the proposals that are being developed?

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, the right reverend Prelate makes a very important point. The guidance that we are preparing is being developed with leading pain clinicians and a large range of stakeholders. They include those in the hospice movement, who are very experienced in such matters.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, is the Minister aware that there is a new parliamentary pain group? A lot of people are very interested in this subject, including the issue of pain in children.

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I am aware of the establishment of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Chronic Pain. It will be launched next week, on 11 May, and I hope to get along to the meeting. I am not at all surprised that the noble Baroness will be an active participant in this group.

Energy: Renewables


3.17 pm

Asked By Lord Renton of Mount Harry

6 May 2009 : Column 546

The Minister of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change & Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, the Government support renewable energy investment through a comprehensive programme of technology development funding and revenue support. This summer we will be publishing our renewable energy strategy, containing a range of measures to meet our renewable energy target.

Lord Renton of Mount Harry: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer but perhaps I may suggest to him that on this issue the Government are self-satisfied and that it is time they moved into reality from dreamland. Is it not ironic that on the day of the Budget last week, when the Chancellor announced the first of his three carbon Budgets, Vestas Blades UK, the only wind turbine manufacturing plant in Britain, closed because of a lack of orders and, as the chief executive said, a lack of political initiative? At the same time, both BP and Shell have heavily cut their commitment to solar and wind power. Therefore, how can the Government possibly reach their new forecast of a 34 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases by 2020 unless they come forward with some new practical and far-seeing proposals?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, of course the Government are not complacent. The target that we have set for 2020 of 15 per cent renewable energy is very demanding. It is very difficult to comment on individual decisions by companies but it is worth making the point that the site on the Isle of Wight produced blades for the market in the US and not for the UK. In general, over the past few years we have seen a major improvement in the production of renewable energy sources. A considerable number of projects are in construction and have received planning consent. The renewable energy strategy will ensure that, where we need additional mechanisms to support renewable energy, those will be put in place. As I said, the strategy will be published in the summer.

Baroness Sharp of Guildford: My Lords, is the Minister aware that in many EU countries, especially in Scandinavia, a lot of investment is going into ground source heating. What is this country doing to promote ground source heating?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, we have a consultation on it at the moment. We are also looking at community heating—district heating—and all the other potential contributors to renewable energy sources. In the legislation passed last autumn, feed-in tariffs were introduced for microgeneration and there is a host of developments and activities in the renewables sector. We are not at all complacent, but I am confident that we have got the momentum going to enable us to meet what, as I have said, is a very challenging target.

Lord Clark of Windermere: My Lords, when the Government are looking at renewable energy, will they also pay attention to hydropower, in particular the role of microhydropower, bearing in mind that we have a turbine manufacturer of hydropower in Kendal, which employs a great number of people?

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Yes, my Lords. I pay tribute to the work of the Forestry Commission, too, in looking at the potential of hydro on its many forests throughout the UK. In fact, hydro is responsible at the moment for about 1.3 per cent of electricity generated and we see it as having an ability to contribute more in the future.

Baroness Wilcox: My Lords, the Government keep going on about all their wonderful schemes, but after 12 years of a Labour Government, we still only get 5 per cent of our electricity from renewable sources. It is absolutely shameful to see on the league tables of European nations exactly where we are. This is Britain, and where are we on this list of 24? We are 18th, coming behind Latvia, Slovenia and Slovakia, let alone Germany and France. Surely the Minister is not going to tell me that he is proud of that record.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, it is not at all shameful. This country, for many years, was completely self-sufficient in its supplies from the North Sea. Clearly, other countries were in different positions. Considering Germany’s natural resources, it is not surprising that it has developed electricity through hydro. The point is, since we decided that we needed to encourage renewable energy sources, we have seen great progress. The figure was 4.5 per cent the year before the one the noble Baroness quoted; it is now up to 5 per cent. It took 14 years to produce 1 gigawatt of energy from wind and another 30 months to produce 3 gigawatts, so we are seeing considerable progress.

The Lord Bishop of Salisbury: My Lords, is the Minister aware of Sir John Houghton’s belief that more than 50 per cent of our electricity resources could come from tidal technology, and do Her Majesty’s Government have the political will to do anything about it?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, indeed we do. There is no question but that tidal may offer huge opportunities for this country. My understanding is that the Carbon Trust has estimated that by 2050, tidal and wave power could produce 30 gigawatts of energy. The UK is in the lead in terms of technology and we are seeing some very exciting developments, such as the work in relation to the Severn. It is very important that we take advantage of the technology lead and ensure that the output is not just increased renewable energy, but that there is considerable spin-off in the supply chain market, leading to more UK jobs.

Lord Marlesford: My Lords—

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am sorry, we must move on.

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