5 Jan 2010 : Column 1

House of Lords

Tuesday, 5 January 2010.

2.30 pm

Prayers-read by the Lord Bishop of Bradford.

NHS: King's College Hospital


2.36 pm

Asked By Baroness Gardner of Parkes

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, the Department of Health has established arrangements in place to ensure that specialised NHS services, where necessary, are commissioned nationally, and that the best research is supported. As a result, 50 services are at present subject to national commissioning, and the National Institute for Health Research supports vital research, including a great deal on haemato-oncology across the country.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: I thank the Minister for that reply. Does she appreciate that if the national blood authority, the Anthony Nolan Trust and King's College Hospital could be brought together in some way, we could have a national unit for bone marrow failure that would be of international standard and thus of great benefit to both patients and research?

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, this country has a strong and internationally recognised track record in bone marrow donation and the Anthony Nolan Trust and NHS Blood and Transplant play a central and important role in delivering this. King's College Hospital is a world-class teaching hospital whose research in this area is absolutely superb, particularly at the new cellular therapy centre for research. We welcome close collaboration on all aspects of health science research, and in this instance we look forward to great results from this collaboration.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: Have the Government undertaken an assessment of the risk to clinical services if the recession results in a decrease in the research grants available, given the number of clinical services that are supplied by those receiving funding from university programmes?

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, we put £1.7 billion into research through Best Research for Best Health. As the noble Baroness will be aware, over a three-year period of transition we are funding research programmes contestably and transparently through rigorous competition. This is working very well indeed and we do not expect any reduction in the work. For example, the funding supports the department of haematology at King's College Hospital and the Guy's and St Thomas's Biomedical Research Centre. We have no reason to assume that this funding is under threat at all.

Baroness Tonge: My Lords, the Minister will know that haemoglobinopathies such as sickle cell anaemia and thalassemia cause great suffering to many children and adults in this country. Can she tell us how many researchers into these conditions are in receipt of government grants, and whether there is a network of clinics so that patients can be referred to where they can get help and treatment within the 18-week rule announced this summer?

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, the noble Baroness is right to say that many different sorts of anaemia require attention, some of which are very specialised indeed. For example, we expect around 129 people to be affected by paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria,

5 Jan 2010 : Column 3

but it is very serious. I cannot give her the exact figures, but each different type of anaemia has its own programme, some of which are nationally funded and some are funded through regional specialisations.

Baroness O'Cathain: I shall follow up the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff, about the effect of the recession on grants to these units. Has any assessment been made of the reduction in charitable donations to such organisations? After all, some of the biggest donors were banking groups and many private donors are stressed for funds at the moment. Is there a plan B or will the work of these units be badly affected not only by cutbacks in government funding but by reductions in charitable donations?

Baroness Thornton: I have no statistics in my brief about that issue. However, it is reported in today's papers that, through the funding of the Wellcome Trust, a new vaccine for cancer is being tested at King's College Hospital. We have no reason to assume that such research will not continue. However, I will ask internally about the question raised by the noble Baroness.

Lord Foster of Bishop Auckland: My Lords, what does my noble friend think will happen with rare conditions and national commissioning?

Baroness Thornton: My noble friend raises an important point about rare conditions. The department launched a consultation in December about this issue seeking views from industry, stakeholders and voluntary organisations on the development of the arrangements proposed in the Carter review, which the House discussed recently. This is about shaping how we commission services, new drugs and treatments for people with extremely rare conditions so that we end up with both a robust and fair system.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, what is happening in the specialised field of research into and treatment of spinal injuries? In particular, is the Minister aware of the difficult circumstances of the unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, which is being affected by the shambles which has occurred in the PFI of the main part of the hospital? The buildings erected under the PFI are unfit for purpose and the remedy is to destroy part of the spinal injuries unit.

Baroness Thornton: I am not aware of the specifics of Stoke Mandeville. The noble Lord and I both have connections with Stoke Mandeville-my grandfather spent 25 years of his life visiting the hospital-and we have discussed the issue of spinal injuries and how they are dealt with across the country. The location of spinal injury units and where people are given the best treatment is a major issue for those dealing with spinal injuries. I am not up to date on spinal injuries. The issue is not part of the Question, which is about haemato-oncology services, but I undertake to find out the up-to-date position on Stoke Mandeville and to let the noble Lord know.

5 Jan 2010 : Column 4

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: Does the Minister appreciate that research into the condition she mentioned-paroxysmal nocturnal haemoglobinuria, which is known as PNH-already receives funding at King's on a national basis, so there is a precedent for it to receive national funding? Would it not be good if it was given national funding for the collection of the umbilical stem cells it needs for transplants in adults, of which it does more than anyone else in the country?

Baroness Thornton: The noble Baroness is aware that the collection of cord blood stem cells is done across PCTs. However, we have made money available for that and have set a target and made an agreement with the national blood services to fund the collection of up to 20,000 cord blood units by 2013.

Public Funding: Museums and Galleries


2.45 pm

Asked By Lord Howarth of Newport

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (Lord Young of Norwood Green): My Lords, the Government fully recognise the importance of university museums and galleries and the immense value of the collections that they hold on behalf of the nation. These are used extensively in teaching and research, as well as being open to the general public. The Government's policy is to continue to invest in higher education museums and galleries through special funding, which is administered by the Higher Education Funding Council for England-HEFCE. The fund currently invests £10 million a year. This funding is currently under review to ensure that judgments on special funding are based on clear principles, making the allocation of this special funding as consistent and transparent as possible.

Lord Howarth of Newport: Will my noble friend put it to the Higher Education Funding Council that if the excellence of the university museums and galleries is to be preserved, dedicated funding will remain essential? Does he acknowledge that university museums and galleries-which include, of course, the Ashmolean, the Fitzwilliam, the Courtauld, the Whitworth and the Sainsbury-hold no less than 30 per cent of all the nationally dedicated collections? That is an index of their importance not only to research and the creative economy but to the cultural life of us all. If, however, the existing £10 million of ring-fenced funding is to go into the general maw of a reduced block grant to the universities, what accounting procedures or other means will the Government require to be used to ensure that public funding in support of the university museums and galleries, which we ought to treasure as great national assets, is not diminished and remains clearly visible?

5 Jan 2010 : Column 5

Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his comments. We are currently undertaking a review of HEFCE funding for university museums and galleries. Sir Muir Russell is leading the review, which is considering both the museums and galleries that currently receive funding and those that do not. I have already expressed the view that we understand and recognise the importance of these collections, which my noble friend has indicated, because they are open to the public and because of their value in research and teaching. We fully endorse his view about the importance of these collections and we have made those views clear. I am afraid that we will have to await the outcome of the review and the recommendations of Sir Muir Russell. We should not anticipate that they will necessarily be negative.

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn: My Lords, is the Minister satisfied that the Higher Education Funding Council for England is drawing on sufficiently wide criteria in its assessment? I have the impression that the criteria enunciated relate mainly to higher education and perhaps to other aspects of education narrowly defined. Is the Minister satisfied that the interests of the broad British public and of tourists will be sufficiently allowed for in this review?

Lord Young of Norwood Green: My Lords, I feel confident that Sir Muir Russell will take into account the fact that these are not merely a part of higher education research but are also, as the noble Lord rightly pointed out, a valuable resource to the public generally and a tourist attraction as well.

Baroness Garden of Frognal: My Lords, given the importance of these museum collections, which the Minister has already set out, could he perhaps comment on the concern expressed by the museums that in the course of the review to date, it appears that none of the museums or galleries has been visited?

Lord Young of Norwood Green: I could not possibly comment on that. I can only accept the noble Baroness's point as accurate. However, I am confident that Sir Muir Russell, who is leading the review, understands fully the importance of these institutions not only to the universities themselves but also to the public at large, and is aware of their wide range. We have mentioned only a few today, but there are a very significant number.

Lord Butler of Brockwell: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the uncertainty about the criteria is causing great difficulty for the university museums? Is there a risk that the interests of the museums may slip between HEFCE and the department for education on the one hand and DCMS on the other? Will he make sure that the Government get their act together to ensure that the great university museums' interests are not damaged?

Lord Young of Norwood Green: The review is due in 2010. I assure the noble Lord that we will make sure that their interests are not damaged. I understand the concern about what they would see as a period of uncertainty, but our commitment to museums and galleries generally is shown by the fact that we have

5 Jan 2010 : Column 6

allocated £191.4 million for national museums and galleries over the next three years. With regard to the importance of these institutions, our commitment has been validated over the years.

Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover: My Lords, I declare an interest as I am on the board of the Ashmolean Museum. I draw the Minister's attention to the considerable contrast between the public funding of important national museums calculated on the basis of grant per visitor, compared with the grant per visitor to the Ashmolean Museum. Is it his belief that national museum grants range from £9.30 per visitor for the British Museum to £13.80 per visitor for the Natural History Museum, whereas funding for the Ashmolean-and, no doubt, for other university museums-is approximately £4.60 per visitor, and may become significantly less given the huge increase in the number of visitors since the Ashmolean's reopening?

Lord Young of Norwood Green: First, we should congratulate the Ashmolean Museum on its recent refit and refurbishment, which a significant amount of government money went into, as was right and appropriate. The cost per visitor is the result of a historical approach. Our concern should not be to decide which of these institutions is more important; the Ashmolean, the Petrie collection and a range of others, together with institutions such as the Natural History Museum, all have a valuable role to play. We believe that our funding overall has accomplished a significant and valuable task in helping these museums to survive, and we have indicated our intention that we want this to continue.



2.52 pm

Asked By Lord Naseby

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): My Lords, in 2007, using the international measure of student enrolment, 71 per cent of 15 to 19 year-olds in the UK were enrolled in education. This compares to 86 per cent in France and 88 per cent in Germany. We know that we need to do more to increase participation, which is why we have introduced EMA, the September guarantee and the 14-to-19 reforms, and have legislated to raise the participation age.

Lord Naseby: I thank the Minister for those figures, which are vindicated by the research done by the University and College Union. The result, though, is that we have ended up 26th out of 30 leading countries in that age group, and in the 20 to 29 group we are 25th out of 30. Given that the Government's philosophy,

5 Jan 2010 : Column 7

as I understand it, is "education, education, education", how can they vindicate such success as they have had with this fall in where we are within these 30 major countries almost to bottom place?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I am extremely proud of the Government's commitment to tackling our real concern about the number of young people who are not in education, employment or training. That is why, for example, we have unprecedented levels of investment in 16 to 19 participation and why we have legislated to increase the age of participation from 17 in 2013 to 18 in 2015. That is a historic commitment that the Government have made real. It is also why we have introduced the educational maintenance award, which has had a huge impact on improving the participation of young people and why we are promoting the 14 to 19 reforms of the curriculum so that we are not trying to put square pegs into round holes and we really do have an engaging curriculum to encourage all young people; not only those who want to pursue an academic career. I feel absolutely vindicated in the Government's strategy and approach to ensuring that young people have the opportunity to fulfil their talents.

Lord Taylor of Blackburn: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it is quality that counts rather than quantity?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I agree that quality counts rather than quantity in some ways, but I would not differentiate or choose to divide young people. I want to recognise that all young people have talents, which is something that our Prime Minister has promoted personally. We in central government, local government and all our communities must do everything that we can to ensure that young people's talents can be realised by creating opportunities and welcoming young people in all aspects of our work.

Baroness Walmsley: Does the Minister not accept that a wide range of options for education and training for young people, which are not only of high quality as the noble Lord just mentioned but are relevant to both their needs and the job opportunities available to them, will do a lot more to engage young people than any compulsion that the Government may introduce in 2013 and 2015?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: No, I do not. We spent a great deal of time debating this during the passage of the Education and Skills Bill when we looked at the question of compulsion. I know that the noble Baroness's party is very much opposed to compulsion, but even when we have done absolutely everything-ensured that we had the most engaging curricula, a flexible approach personalised to meet the needs of all young people, however challenging their experiences or upbringing might be, ensured that the financial support is there and that we have the EMAs, courses and funding that this party has put in place-we will end up with young people who will still not engage. That is where the compulsion element becomes

5 Jan 2010 : Column 8

so important. We thought that it was right to make education compulsory to 16 and it is now right for it to be compulsory for young people up to the age of 18 to be involved in education, training or an apprenticeship, which I know that this House is particularly interested in.

Lord Roberts of Conwy: Does the noble Baroness not realise that her unprecedented commitment to 15 to 19 year-olds is reflected in the highest level of unemployment recorded for 18 to 24 year-olds? Many of those about whom we are talking now who were educated in 2007 are now in the 18 to 24 year-old group. At 18.4 per cent, it is the highest level of unemployment since records began.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, I am extremely concerned, like many, that young people experience unemployment. The noble Lord knows better than most the impact of unemployment in areas of particular industrial decline around the country. However, we know from the review of my noble friend Lord Leitch looking at the skills that this country needs that we have to get more people into education. Low-skilled jobs are on the decline and it is vital that we have young people gaining skills and going on to university. That is why I, too, am proud that we have such ambitious aspirations to get more young people into university.

Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, we are told that we are in the worst recession since the 1930s, but will my noble friend give the comparable figures of the treatment of young people in the 1980s and during the recession in the 1990s?

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin: My Lords, my noble friend raises an extremely important point. In facing these tough economic times, young people in this country are in a better position than ever before. For example, we have a much lower rate of long-term youth unemployment now than we had in the 1980s and 1990s. We have the September guarantee, under which this Government have committed to ensuring that all 16 and 17 year-olds have a suitable offer of a place to continue in learning, should they wish to take it. This year, we also have the January guarantee, which is funded fully to make sure that all young people who find themselves NEET this month have the opportunity to take back-to-work courses and have education maintenance allowance. None of this was evident in the 1980s or early 1990s.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page