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House of Lords

Wednesday, 24 March 2010.

3 pm

Prayers-read by the Lord Bishop of Hereford.

Terrorist Asset-Freezing Bill


3.06 pm

Asked By Lord Pannick

The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): The Government are committed to ensuring proper scrutiny of the draft Terrorist Asset-Freezing Bill. To enable and help inform that scrutiny, we published our draft Bill on 5 February, and on 18 March we launched a public consultation on our proposals. This will help to ensure that parliamentary scrutiny of the legislation is informed by the views and evidence provided by the general public and interested parties.

Lord Pannick: I am very grateful to the Minister and I warmly welcome the consultation paper. Will the Government, in addition to organising the consultation, welcome pre-legislative scrutiny of this draft Bill by a Joint Committee or by a Select Committee of your Lordships' House?

Lord Myners: I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pannick, for his question. We of course want this Bill to be properly scrutinised. Indeed, one of the reasons why we argued against the opposition amendment for the sunset provision in the current temporary legislation to have a much shorter life than was eventually agreed by Parliament was that we wanted to allow appropriate time for pre-legislative scrutiny. It is for Parliament to determine how that scrutiny takes place and how it would work within the timetable that is effectively set by the sunset clause, but we certainly appreciate the value that would come from detailed public comment and pre-legislative scrutiny by the Houses of Parliament.

Baroness Hamwee: My Lords, those who may wish to comment on the draft Bill, or on any future consultation in this area, may find it particularly difficult because of their own circumstances. These are sensitive matters and some individuals who may have things that are worthwhile saying may not feel confident about saying them in the public arena. Will the Government give some thought about how those who would wish to give their views on these matters could do so confidentially-including, of course, their identities?

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Lord Myners: I am grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, for making that point, which had not occurred to me. I will take it away and give it careful consideration. We need to strike the right balance between protecting individual freedoms and securing the peace, tranquillity and safety of the nation. The noble Baroness raises an important point and I will, if I may, go away, reflect on it and communicate with her directly afterwards.

Baroness Noakes: My Lords, the consultation paper that has helpfully now come out specifically excludes those covered by the al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorism provisions. Can the Minister explain why there should not be a consultation on whether there are appropriate safeguards in that order, as well as in the draft legislation?

Lord Myners: They are of course entirely different orders dealing with similar, but different, situations. I believe that the House is due to consider the al-Qaeda orders later this week, when we will have an opportunity to hear whether the House believes that there should be a similar, parallel or congruent consultation that covers that legislation.

Ordnance Survey


3.10 pm

Asked By The Earl of Selborne

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): My Lords, the Government are committed to ensuring a sustainable operating model for the Ordnance Survey so that it can continue to supply high-quality geographic information to Government and other users. Further details will be set out in the response to the consultation, Policy Options for Geographic Information from Ordnance Survey, which will be published by the end of March.

The Earl of Selborne: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Clearly, the free availability of Ordnance Survey data is to be welcomed. The great concern is that the Prime Minister has already announced this week that the new arrangements for free data are to start on 1 April-next Thursday-with no funding arrangement to replace them. Is our national mapping organisation at risk?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: No, my Lords, it certainly is not. I am conscious that this exchange will not be as productive as it might have been had our response to the consultation been published by now. We have made commitments to make sure that there is a sustainable business model. I hope when the noble Earl sees our response that he will accept that we have fulfilled those commitments.

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Baroness Maddock: My Lords, I never go anywhere without an Ordnance Survey map, even though I have sat-nav in the car. Some of us have experienced being sent down one-way streets the wrong way by sat-nav. I have looked at the consultation. In the changes anticipated, will I be guaranteed a paper OS map into the foreseeable future?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: Yes, my Lords, OS will continue to provide high-quality paper maps for its many customers.

Lord Howe of Aberavon: My Lords, it is well known that the Ordnance Survey is a world-class national mapping organisation and national treasure. It has so far been able to maintain its financial independence by having the freedom to license and to sell for itself the data it has available. With the data being freely distributed, as has just been announced, will it retain the vitality of being a self-financing organisation?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, the issue is the sustainability of its business model. Obviously, to the extent to which information is going to be made available freely, there will need to be changes to the existing business model. That is what our response to the consultation will show. I certainly agree with the noble and learned Lord that we have a world-class institution here.

Apart from the innate pleasure of answering Questions in your Lordships' House, sometimes you get the added pleasure of some really interesting information in the briefing. I can say that the OS database has mapped more than 440 million different topographic features, some 544,000 kilometres of motorable road and some 750,000 road names, the three most frequent of which are High Street, Station Road and Church Lane.

Viscount Montgomery of Alamein: My Lords, the new arrangements come in on 1 April and the comments on the consultation are not published until the end of March. That does not give much time for consideration of how they will be implemented and whether changes can be made.

Lord McKenzie of Luton: The noble Viscount makes a good point. We have not just waited for the responses to accumulate with a view to dealing with them at the end of the consultation process; they have been addressed while the consultation has been under way. We are keen to make progress on this because it is very clear from the consultation that there is a real appetite to move in the direction that we are proposing.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, many of us who are keen hill walkers use Ordnance Survey maps all the time. Will my noble friend confirm that, although walkers' maps may not be the most profitable part of Ordnance Survey's output, they are absolutely essential and that nothing in the business model will damage our chance of continuing to use these maps?

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Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I must not pre-empt our response to the consultation but I believe that what my noble friend says will be the case.

Lord Tebbit: My Lords, who is to blame for the fact that the Government have not yet published the results of the consultation? Is it the people who were consulted or those who were doing the consulting?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, the consultation started on 23 December; it ran for a 12-week period and finished on 17 March. Until we have gone through the consultation process, we cannot be expected to respond to it. This whole proposal came from the Prime Minister's assertions about smarter government and making more data freely available to help public services to be more accountable and more transparent. However, we have to conclude the consultation before we can respond to it.

Lord Inglewood: Do the Government consider Ordnance Survey to be primarily a public service or primarily an organisation intended to generate profits?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, Ordnance Survey's mission statement has been the subject of debate for some time. Obviously we see it as a key part of public service.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, what is the cost of the data being given free and will the funding be equal to it, greater or less?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, that is precisely the information that will be covered in the response, and the noble Lord will understand that it is difficult for me to pre-empt it.

Earl Cathcart: My Lords, the consultation report said that to cover the cost of providing the products for free and maintain the very high standard of those products, an additional government grant of up to £40 million was needed. As this freebie starts next week, the Minister must have an idea, so can he confirm that £40 million will be provided? If not, how much will be?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I cannot confirm that figure. I have tried to stress that it is difficult to answer this Question before we have put our response into the public domain. However, I reassert that we have made a commitment to ensure that the business model is sustainable, and obviously that will mean some form of funding to support the fact that some of the income streams will not be there in the future.

Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville: My Lords, if I am right in recalling that Ordnance Survey, like lighthouses and lifeboats, is run on an all-Ireland basis, what are the implications of these developments for the Irish authorities?

24 Mar 2010 : Column 951

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, these proposals relate just to Scotland, Wales and England. Ordnance Survey covers Great Britain and there are separate arrangements for Northern Ireland.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, will the Minister tell us why the consultation came out so late and why the funding finishes before any other procedure can be put in place?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, we are proposing to start the new arrangements on 1 April and, whatever the change to the funding arrangements, it is obviously important that those arrangements are in place from that date. It seems to me that the consultation flowed naturally from government announcements about making data more freely available in relation not only to Ordnance Survey but to a whole range of other things, such as health, transport and the Met Office. This was simply a development of government policy. Sometimes we are criticised for not consulting enough or over a sufficient period. However, we have done so on this occasion.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, does this apply also to the Hydrographic Office and the issuing of nautical charts for our navies and seamen around the British coast?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I may need to write to the noble Lord to give him more detail on that. If those charts are produced by Ordnance Survey, the changes we will make will fall within the ambit of the review.

Lord Tomlinson: Has my noble friend noticed the apparent enthusiasm on the Benches opposite for an extension of public expenditure? Will he join me in hoping that that extension of public expenditure and the enthusiasm for it becomes infectious?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My noble friend as ever comes to my rescue. I agree with what he says.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, I must declare an interest as a former Minister for Ordnance Survey. Can the Minister give me any other recent example where a government response to consultation had not been published before an activity was initiated?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I explained that we are going to publish our response in the next few days-by the end of March-and the actions proposed will follow that, not precede it.

The Earl of Selborne: My Lords, I understood the Minister to say that the consultation period ended on 17 March. On 22 March, the Prime Minister announced that the new funding arrangements were to start on 1 April. The results of the consultation document have not yet been published, and Ordnance Survey, which is expected to run a trading fund, has no idea where next week's funding is to come from. Is that the situation?

Lord McKenzie of Luton: My Lords, I do not think that is a full characterisation of the position in which we find ourselves.

24 Mar 2010 : Column 952

Health: Tuberculosis


3.21 pm

Asked By Baroness Masham of Ilton

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Thornton):My Lords, I congratulate the noble Baroness on the timeliness of her Question as today is World TB Day. In England, our strategy is early detection and completion of treatment, which prevents drug-resistant TB developing. The UK Government made a long-term commitment of £1 billion from 2007 to 2015 to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria overseas.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. She will be aware that we are one of the most generous countries in Europe to the global fund. Others should follow us. I congratulate the Government on the national strain-typing service, which is to be opened in May. It will help with all sorts of TB strains. It will be in Newcastle, Birmingham and London. Does she agree that drug-resistant tuberculosis should be treated in negative-pressure isolation rooms? Do we have enough rooms, especially for children?

Baroness Thornton: As ever, the noble Baroness points at important matters to do with TB. Since today is World TB Day, I am pleased to announce that DfID has announced two new allocations of funding for TB research. The first is £8 million to the Aeras Global TB Vaccine Foundation to help develop a booster vaccine, and the second is the process that the noble Baroness mentioned for the diagnostics of TB.

We are confident that we have the resources to deal with drug-resistant TB which, I am very pleased to say, is not increasing. However, we know that it is a problem across the world. Some 440,000 people across the world have drug-resistant TB. Our £1 billion and our commitment to international co-operation on this matter are extremely important.

Baroness Sharples: Can the Minister explain why when over 73 per cent of TB cases come from outside the UK, only 21 per cent of cases are diagnosed within two years of arrival?

Baroness Thornton: The noble Baroness is correct. She is an expert on these matters. Seventy per cent of TB cases in England occur in people who were born abroad but show no sign of illness after living here for many years. We have, as yet, no test that can predict who will develop TB in later life. We know that there are no short-term solutions in tackling TB. The long-term action will take time to take effect, but the strategy in this country is to detect it early. That means that the generation of doctors who thought that TB was a problem that we no longer needed to address in his country need to be trained to recognise TB, diagnose it

24 Mar 2010 : Column 953

and make sure that people go through the treatment, which, I am happy to say, is successful, to make sure that we deal with this in this country.

Lord Alderdice: My Lords, one of the areas of great difficulty is in prisons in the United Kingdom; imprisonment carries a high-risk of contracting tuberculosis. Furthermore, the majority of sufferers are UK born-white prisoners-and have pulmonary disease. Many are increasingly resistant to drugs because they are not following up their treatment-nor being followed up-after they leave prison. Have the Government any proposals for energetically following up infected prisoners? Otherwise we shall see increased treatment-resistant tuberculosis in the country because of the prison population.

Baroness Thornton: The noble Lord is right. Certainly in London, one of the main uses of mobile X-ray machines is to go into prisons to help with the diagnosis of prisoners and to ensure that, on release, prisoners who have TB continue their treatment. That is why the detect-and-treat programme includes placing alongside released prisoners people who can ensure that they continue their treatment to the end. This requires vigilance, energy and resources.

Lord McColl of Dulwich: My Lords, are the Government aware that one in three people in the world are infected with TB? It is only noticed when the bacteria become active and the patient becomes ill. The bacteria only become active when the immune system is depressed-for example, as a result of contracting HIV or because of advancing age. Are the Government further aware that so unselfish are the ladies in this world that if they do not have enough calcium in their diet when they are pregnant or lactating, they take the calcium from the lymph nodes which have been calcified and in which the TB is entombed and made inactive? The calcium is taken out, the TB escapes and they become infected. Therefore, nutrition is extremely important-hence the slogan "drinka pinta milka day".

Baroness Thornton: The noble Lord, Lord McColl, as ever, informs me of something that I did not know. I was not aware of that and it certainly was not included in my briefing. The noble Lord points to an important matter-the prevalence of TB in the poorest communities across the world. That is why this programme is so important.

Lord Rea: My Lords-

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords-

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, has been seeking to speak.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, there has been criticism of the failure of international co-operation. Can my noble friend explain to the House precisely where we stand on that and what we are doing to improve it?

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