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House of Lords

Tuesday, 2 June 2009.

2.30 pm

Prayers—read by the Lord Bishop of Norwich.

Personal Statement: Lord Clarke of Hampstead

2.36 pm

Lord Clarke of Hampstead: My Lords, with the leave of the House, I would like to make a personal statement. Your Lordships may have read in the press reports of an interview between me and a journalist relating to expenses claimed. Those reports are not accurate in every respect. However, I accept that my conduct may have fallen short of the high standard that this House demands of its Members. I tender my humble apologies to the House. I have asked the Clerk of the Parliaments, as accounting officer, to investigate these issues, and I will of course co-operate fully with that and any other inquiries. Again, I humbly apologise.

Olympic Games 2012


2.37 pm

Asked By Lord Lucas

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the Olympic Board has confirmed that the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich represents the most cost-effective option and will host the shooting events in 2012. The Olympic Board also agreed that further feasibility work should be undertaken at Barking Reach as a contingent fallback option. Bisley is not being considered as an alternative venue.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, is it not a strange definition of cost-effective and a most appalling waste to spend £40 million on a shooting venue at Woolwich, which will be destroyed immediately after the Olympics, rather than £10 million less for a facility at Bisley that will be used for generations? Please, will the Government and the Olympic organising committee stop circulating me and other Members of this House with lies and half-truths about their reasons for this decision and publish in full the independent report that they have had from KPMG and the internal report that they prepared themselves, so we can understand the real reasons behind this decision?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am not sure how fruitful such an activity would be in guaranteeing the success of shooting in the Olympic Games, which is the objective of the Olympic Board, which has made its final decision. I do not recognise the figures that the

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noble Lord put forward on comparative costs, but I do know that if the decision been for Bisley, it would have involved the creation of an Olympic village for the shooters and £15 million to £20 million being spent on that, which is a significant cost. It would also have lost the great factor which obtains with the vast majority of events in the Olympic Games—that they are London’s Olympic Games and should, as far as possible, take place within the confines of London.

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, I declare an interest—it is perhaps somewhat unlikely—as president of the Sussex rifle association.

A noble Lord: Don’t touch him!

Lord Lloyd of Berwick: My Lords, does the Minister agree that Bisley is known the world over as the centre of British rifle shooting and is also, as it happens, a place of great charm? If the Olympic rowing is going to take place at Eton, as I believe it will, with accommodation for the competitors at the Royal Holloway College, what good reason is there for the shooting not to take place at Bisley, which is roughly the same distance?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am glad that the noble and learned Lord has arrived armed only with his intellect and not with his rifle, but I must respond to him in these terms. The Royal Holloway College has limited accommodation. It would not have been straightforward, or even possible, to accommodate those involved in the shooting events as well as those already involved with rowing. So there is a problem with the Royal Holloway College in those terms. That is why I quoted the fact that the Bisley proposal would have involved construction of accommodation. I again emphasise that rowing is not taking place in London because it is difficult to identify how it could take place on the Thames. The horse-riders have the same claim with regard to Burghley or Badminton, but it has been decided that the horse events should be in Greenwich. It is logical that the shooting events should take place in Woolwich for the London Games.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: My Lords, has my noble friend seen LOCOG’s claim that one of the reasons why Bisley was not chosen as the appropriate—and cheaper—venue for the Olympic and Paralympic shooting events is that it could not identify a longer-term use for it? Will he ask the ODA and LOCOG for the minutes of the meeting with the British Army and British Shooting on 16 February this year which show that the Olympic ranges were intended to be used for military marksmanship, for GB, England and Paralympic training, as well as for normal commercial use? Will he also inquire into the claim, again by LOCOG, that Bisley was no good because it could not be completed until 2012, which was too near the start of the Games, when that was the completion date that LOCOG itself suggested to those responsible for running Bisley, and the Bisley people argued that they could get it done by the autumn of 2011? Will he have a look at those minutes?

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Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I will certainly have a look at the minutes. I must say that, in preparing for this Question, I did not look at the minutes of every conceivable meeting concerned with the development of the Olympic programme. However, KPMG carried out a full cost study; it cost a significant sum, but it was about an important decision. That investigation showed that Bisley presented a number of problems, one of which was cost. There is the additional problem that as ownership of Bisley is not invested in one particular authority, it is difficult for the Olympic Board to get agreement on the implementation of any decision on Bisley. Finally, the point still holds that these are the London Games and the shooting will take place in Woolwich to the benefit of shooting in the future.

Lord Moynihan: My Lords, I declare my interest as chairman of the British Olympic Association. Does the Minister agree that the BOA has been working hard with British Shooting on this issue, particularly to seek an effective sports legacy? However, does he not also agree that the paper presented to the Olympic Board by the Government Olympic Executive on 19 March made it clear to the mayor, the Secretary of State, me and, indeed, my noble friend Lord Coe that none of the existing ranges at Bisley is international federation or International Olympic Committee-compliant? Does he not also agree that the building of duplicate ranges on adjacent MoD land would require highly sensitive development on green belt/SSSI land adjacent to housing and that an alternative satellite village would be required, denying the shooters the Olympic experience in the Olympic Village?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I am delighted with that additional testimony about the care with which this issue has been approached and the problems that were attendant on Bisley. A difficult decision was arrived at and is now final, and I make this plea to the House. Of course there will be disappointment at a whole range of decisions on the preparation for the Olympic Games, but once those difficult decisions have been taken, it behoves us all to ensure that they are then fulfilled to guarantee the success of the London Olympics.

Lord Addington: 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 well into the ninth minute.

NHS: Transport Services


2.46 pm

Asked By Baroness Greengross

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Baroness Thornton: My Lords, all patients are eligible for free non-emergency patient transport services if they have a medical need for transport. Primary care trusts are responsible for ensuring that there is provision through patient transport services; it is the strategic health authorities’ role to oversee that PCTs are properly fulfilling their commissioning role, including the commissioning of patient transport services. At present, the guidance issued to primary care trusts is not being monitored centrally.

Baroness Greengross: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her response. In her reply to my proposed amendment to the Health Bill, she said that good practice in this area to achieve more effective user-focused transport services should involve multi-agency working. In the light of today’s admission by the National Health Service that some kidney patients are suffering as a result of the unacceptable quality of patient transport, does she now accept that a duty should be imposed on primary care trusts to co-ordinate the transport services that they provide with the public transport provided by, or on behalf of, local transport authorities?

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for the Question, as I know that she is tackling and attempting to remedy the problem as she sees it—and I agree that there are problems. We remain clear that a multi-agency approach is essential; she is absolutely right on that. She is also right to point to the announcement today about the provision of transport for people who use dialysis. Indeed, it was the Department of Health that asked the Information Centre to take up this audit and to help us better to understand and improve transport for kidney patients. Today’s audit shows that the majority of kidney patients get to treatment within half an hour and are satisfied with the service that they receive. However, that is not all of them. We want to ensure that all kidney care patients have the same quality of service.

On the more general question of patient transport services, we expect that the world-class commissioning assessment will be used by the CQC, as the new regulator, as part of the evidence in assessing PCTs’ commissioning ability. That will include patient transport services. Each PCT will be under scrutiny and there will be patient feedback about the effectiveness of the services.

Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, what support are the Government giving to air ambulance services, which play an increasingly important part in some of our rural communities? I declare an interest as a supporter of the Northumberland air ambulance, which is largely supported by charitable funds. That service is particularly important for people who live on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, which is cut off by the tide for several hours each day.

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, as the noble Lord will be aware, we regard air ambulance services as a very important, integrated part of our emergency services. We provide financial support to air ambulance

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services for the staffing that they use. However, given the nature of those services, we have always felt that it was better that they should be organised locally, because need for them is sporadic. There is no proposal to do this centrally and, indeed, I do not think that we would want it to be done centrally.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the car park at the spinal unit of Stoke Mandeville Hospital has been built over? Even if patients have their own cars, there is nowhere to park their vehicles.

Baroness Thornton: No, my Lords, I was not aware of that. I undertake to look into it for the noble Baroness.

Baroness Tonge: My Lords, the Minister will know that, in these days of polyclinics and specialist hospitals that patients now attend, often much further from their home than previously, this issue is crucial. The paper Eligibility Criteria for Patient Transport Services says grandly on page 9 that the cost of patient transport services,

Can she elucidate that sentence a little? Does “results” mean “patient satisfaction”, as she indicated? Will she also acknowledge that, unless a target is attached to a service in the National Health Service, it tends to wither on the vine?

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, it does indeed mean that patient satisfaction will be judged when the tariffs are under consideration. I suggest to the noble Baroness that the design, commissioning and running of transport services must be done at a local level for obvious reasons—you need the input of local patient groups and individuals. It is therefore not the Government’s job to do that. Our job is to try to set the framework, which we did, and to do what we can to make sure that these matters are audited and regulated in a suitable fashion.

Lord Foster of Bishop Auckland: My Lords, has my noble friend given any thought to whether aspects of the public service could make a contribution? Is there the possibility of developing some kind of integrated transport system within the public sector?

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, my noble friend points to exactly the issue that our guidance set out: multi-agency working will lead to more effective and user-focused—if noble Lords will pardon that expression—transport services. The north-west has produced Providing Transport in Partnership, which is guidance for health agencies and local authorities. It provides advice to local authorities and the NHS on the benefits of integrating their transport services across their different needs and making the best of the transport available for health, education and social services.

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Houses of Parliament: Freedom of Passage


2.52 pm

Asked By Earl Ferrers

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord West of Spithead): My Lords, the sessional order on stoppages in the street is a statement of the House’s expectation that passage to the House will be kept free and open. The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police has ensured that at least partial access has been maintained at all times.

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, I thank the noble and gallant Lord for that reply.

A noble Lord: He’s not gallant.

Earl Ferrers: Who said he’s not gallant? He is gallant.

Noble Lords: Oh!

Earl Ferrers: My Lords, the purpose of the Question is not to be hostile to the Metropolitan Police, for whom I have a great respect and who do wonderful work in very difficult circumstances. However, does the noble Lord think that it is right that a whole lot of people from other countries should come here and inundate Parliament Square and the roads around it, bring their cooking utensils and having fry-ups on Parliament Square, and prevent people getting access to Parliament while involving vast numbers of police? And all for what? For some objection they have about something in another country over which we have no control. Is that fair?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for his opening comments. I did not quite catch who thinks that I am not gallant over there, but I will track him down.

I have considerable sympathy with what the noble Earl has said, but this is a very difficult area. Clearly, within this country, we have a right to demonstrate. Although it goes on for a long time, there is no curtailment on its length. However, it is absolutely true to say that any sympathy there might have been is rapidly evaporating and the protest is therefore becoming counterproductive. Those who are involved ought to think of that closely.

It is absolutely right that we should allow people to demonstrate. I am glad that we had the statement about how well the police have done, because they have handled it extremely well. It is a question of being damned if you do and damned if you don’t; one looks at the G20. It is a very difficult situation. The

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Commissioner of the Met has kept access to the House open, but I entirely agree that it is very annoying and irksome. The protestors need to think hard about whether it is doing their cause any good or not.

Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, why has the Minister not mentioned the sum of money that this is costing us? Will he please mention the sum of money that this is costing through the good services of the police? Is he aware that one has not only to get here—I am not the only person who totters around this place—one has to get home, too? Where I live in Battersea there is no Tube. Therefore, I am dependent on taxis, and if the road to the Peers’ Entrance is closed, I have no means whatever of getting home.

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, in terms of the costs, the Commissioner stated the other day—of course, he knows the detail of this—that so far £8 million has been spent on this. He also said that it was damaging the performance of the Metropolitan Police in other areas, and it meant that there was a reduced amount of policing on the streets of London. So, clearly, it has an impact, but it comes back to this balance again. I am afraid that—much as one would like to do so—resources cannot be cited as grounds for limiting a demonstration. That is where we stand. This is one of the strengths of this country even though it is amazingly annoying. As regards the latter part of the question, all I would say is that it would be a very gallant Tamil who stood between the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, and the Tube.

Lord Acton: My Lords, I have become so old that I cannot hear every word that the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, says, which is most unfortunate. Are there any circumstances in which a Member of this House can be rightly impeded by the police from coming to this House?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I think that I am steering gently into danger in answering that. It seems that it could be quite a complex legal question. First, they have to be able to identify whether you are a Member of this House and exactly what the circumstances are. I would be very wary of exactly answering that. Generally, because of the sessional order, it is a requirement that the commissioner will maintain access to the House for Members of this House, but, as regards the actual details of that, I would be very wary of giving an answer on the Floor of the House now.

Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, may I remind the Minister that the Government in their reply in 2004 to the report of the Procedure Committee in another place on the sessional order indicated that legislation would be introduced to strengthen police powers in relation to assemblies in Parliament Square? Five years later all we have are provisions in the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, which by common consent are ineffective and are in urgent need of strengthening. What steps are being taken to give effect to the Government’s good intentions of five years ago?

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