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House of Lords

Thursday, 3 June 2010.

11 am

Prayers-read by the Lord Bishop of Wakefield.

Introduction: Lord Wei

11.08 am

Nathanael Ming-Yan Wei Esq, having been created Baron Wei, of Shoreditch in the London Borough of Hackney, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Lord Strathclyde and Lord Bates, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Introduction: Lord Sassoon

11.13 am

Sir James Meyer Sassoon, Knight, having been created Baron Sassoon, of Ashley Park in the County of Surrey, was introduced and took the oath, supported by Lord Brittan of Spennithorne and Baroness Noakes, and signed an undertaking to abide by the Code of Conduct.

Several noble Lords took the oath or affirmed.

Energy: Nuclear Power

Question

11.20 am

Asked by Lord Hunt of Kings Heath

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Energy and Climate Change (Lord Marland): I thank the noble Lord for his Question. The Government are committed to allowing the construction of new nuclear power stations, provided that they are subject to the normal planning process for major projects and receive no public subsidy. The Government will continue to work through the Office for Nuclear Development to drive progress in all areas needed to bring this about.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for his Answer. I congratulate him on his appointment and wish him every success in the future. Given that the loan that the previous Government proposed for Sheffield Forgemasters, a critical part of the nuclear supply industry, is now in jeopardy; and given that the coalition agreement sets out that a Conservative Minister will propose the energy national policy statement to Parliament, a Liberal Democrat spokesman will oppose and Liberal Democrat MPs will abstain, can the Minister give the necessary assurance to an industry that is now uncertain about the Government's intentions?



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Lord Marland: I thank the noble Lord for that question. At this point, I will draw the attention away from me for a moment and pay tribute to him as a former Minister. His work in the Department of Energy and Climate Change was fantastic, and he gave us a lot of time in this House to debate issues, for which we are very grateful. By the way, he is rightly held in great affection and respect by the department, so I thank him for that. I am not sure that I want to thank him for his questions, because there were two or three of them.

On the first question, the loan was made to Sheffield Forgemasters in the run-up to a general election and in the midst of a recession when many businesses were being forced out of business by their banks and some businesses were pushed to the brink. I am sure all noble Lords would agree that this loan needs to be considered and reviewed in the commercial light of day and the recession that we now face and that we need to consider whether it is the best use of taxpayers' money. I assure noble Lords that this will be done in consultation with our department.

The noble Lord's second question-I thought he had asked only one question at the time-relates to the wonderful coalition that we have with our excellent friends from the Liberal Democrat Benches. I pay tribute to them, as we are in that season-the early stage of our Parliament when we are being nice to everyone-for their support for the nuclear commitment.

Lord Ryder of Wensum: My Lords, in view of the fact that our future energy resources are in a dire state, will my noble friend please explain precisely why nothing has happened over the past 13 years?

Lord Marland: Perhaps the former Minister ought to answer that question. There needs to be a huge amount of catch-up. The lights are meant to be going out in 2017, and there is a big task ahead of us to get this country prepared to supply electricity. I assure noble Lords that this Government are fully committed to that process.

Lord Tomlinson: My Lords, I congratulate the Minister on his appointment, but must immediately tell him that he must produce better replies to Parliament than his first reply to my noble friend Lord Hunt. To congratulate the Liberal Democrat members of the coalition on their commitment to nuclear generation is turning reality on its head in the light of what my noble friend Lord Hunt said and what we have all read in the coalition programme. Will the Minister now answer the question and assure this House that the statement that the Liberal Democrats are free to oppose and to abstain in votes on this is not a process of benign neglect of the imperative of nuclear generation for this country?

Lord Marland: As the noble Lord knows, the Conservative commitment to nuclear is very strong, and before the end of the month we will be putting to the House a coalition Statement on our plans. I will leave it at that, because I think that enough has been said.



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Lord Elis-Thomas: I, too, congratulate the Minister on his appointment and his response to the House so far. I can bring him some consolation that division of opinion on the nuclear industry is not confined to the coalition in the United Kingdom: it also applies to the coalition in Cardiff. Does he accept that there is a huge reservoir of workforce in the north-west of Wales who are highly skilled in the nuclear industry, both in Ynys Mon, at Wylfa, and in my Assembly constituency of Meirionnydd, at Trawsfynydd; and that these people deserve a clear answer-that there is a future for them in the nuclear industry generating in that region?

Lord Marland: The very short answer is: yes, there is. The great thing about the development of nuclear power stations is that it will create much-needed jobs in these difficult times.

Lord Taverne: My Lords, does the Minister recognise that there are several of us on these Benches in this House who do support the nuclear programme and who have no regrets about the concessions made by the Liberal Democrats' negotiators in the coalition agreement?

Lord Marland: I thank the noble Lord very much. That is very reassuring.

Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan: Will the Minister be a little more specific in his answer to my noble friend's question relating to Sheffield Forgemasters? As chairman of the Nuclear Industry Association I should tell him that there is widespread concern across the industry not so much about the lack of government commitment but about the fact that they are not sending out the positive signals quickly enough. Evidence of that would be an early statement on the Sheffield Forgemasters' loan. Will he give us a time by which such a statement will be given? Will it be at the end of this month, will it be before the Summer Recess, or will it be in this grand Statement that he has promised us? This is a specific issue on which action is required very early in order to enhance and reinforce the UK supply chain.

Lord Marland: I am very grateful to such an eminent expert in these areas for his question-which I felt was a little harsh. I thought that I was very clear in what I said about Sheffield Forgemasters. It is a matter for the Treasury, which is giving it due consideration and consultation. No doubt it will opine on the matter in the very near future. It is important that the matter is deliberately debated and that a decision of some consequence is made. This is not something to be frittered in the wind.

Health: Dementia

Question

11.27 am

Asked By Baroness Greengross



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Baroness Greengross: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare an interest as a member of the advisory committee on dementia research.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Earl Howe): My Lords, dementia is one of the most important issues we face as the population ages. We are fully committed to improving the quality of care for people with dementia and their carers. We will accelerate the pace of improvement through a greater focus on local delivery and accountability, and empower citizens to hold local organisations to account.

Baroness Greengross: I thank the noble Earl for that encouraging reply. How will the Care Quality Commission be strengthened and aligned with the strategy so that it can support the development of better quality social care, particularly for dementia? As I understand it, there are plans to stop the star rating system in favour of a new registration scheme.

Earl Howe: My Lords, the Care Quality Commission is revising its current quality rating system for adult social care and is working closely with the adult social care sector to develop a more user-friendly system that provides people using services with the information they need to make decisions about their care. That is absolutely in tune with the work being done in the department on driving up quality standards in dementia care. Better information for people with dementia and their carers will enable individuals to have a good understanding of their local services, how they compare with other services and the level of quality that they can expect.

Baroness Finlay of Llandaff: My Lords, will the Government maintain the e-learning packages developed in palliative care to enhance end-of-life care for people with dementia across health and social care, and will they respect the agreement that those packages should be rolled out in Wales? I declare an interest as the palliative care lead for Wales.

Earl Howe: My Lords, it so happens that only yesterday I received a briefing on the e-learning programme, and I am well seized of the value attached to it by the royal colleges in particular as well as many other professional bodies.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: Does the Minister agree that respite care is extremely valuable, but can he say what help there is for people whose dementia has developed into violence? What can be done for those who wish to keep such patients at home, but find themselves in a very frightening position? Can they be given any respite?

Earl Howe: My Lords, my noble friend has raised an important issue, and one which we are giving consideration to. We recognise fully that breaks from caring are one of the top priorities for carers in terms of the sort of help they want. Supporting the physical and mental well-being of carers by giving them breaks obviously enables them to do their job more safely and

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effectively, and can keep families together. But where violence intrudes, it is often an intractable problem. I hope to be able to give my noble friend more details once we have given this area the thought that it deserves.

Baroness Thornton: My Lords, we are at the beginning of the second year of what is in fact a five-year dementia strategy, which is what the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, referred to in her Question. Some £150 million was earmarked for the first two years of the strategy. Is that £150 million safe, particularly the £90 million for 2010-11, and do the Government have plans to implement the rest of the five-year strategy?

Earl Howe: My Lords, the answer to the specific question about whether the money is safe this year is yes, but we want to ensure that the strategy is sustainable over the following three years. We will do that principally by driving up quality standards through a tariff for dementia patients, by better regulation of providers and by better commissioning of services, including public health interventions. Alongside that, as I said to the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, we plan to provide better information to people with dementia so that they have a good understanding of their local services, and local organisations will be expected to publish how they are delivering on those standards.

Lord Alderdice: My Lords, the strategy is set out in an ambitious and sophisticated document that says that it is not just for five years, but that:

"There is no expectation therefore that all areas will necessarily be able to implement the Strategy within five years".

I wonder if, even at this early stage of the coalition Government, my noble colleague has been able to identify whether all 17 objectives are to be carried forward at the same time or any priority areas that might be moved forward more quickly.

Earl Howe: We are looking at the implementation plan at the moment. I say to my noble friend that there are perhaps four key dementia priorities for us. One is promoting awareness and early diagnosis and referral; the second is the care of people in hospital; the third is the care of those in care homes; and the fourth is a reduction in the use of anti-psychotic medication. That is not to say that the other objectives are trivial-by no means-but we think that these will yield the most tangible results in the shorter term.

Lord Laming: My Lords, does the noble Earl accept that we are all familiar with frequent reports of research into other diseases, but much less so with research reports into dementia? Will he keep in mind the importance of developing more effective research into this growing problem?

Earl Howe: My Lords, we will be giving increased priority to dementia research. The work of the Ministerial Advisory Group on Dementia Research, in which the noble Baroness, Lady Greengross, is playing an important part, is key to that. The group is time-limited but very focused. We anticipate that once it has completed its work the dementia research community will be better positioned to compete successfully for available funding opportunities.



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Immigration

Question

11.35 am

Asked By Lord Corbett of Castle Vale

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Neville-Jones): My Lords, to appeal further there must be present an arguable material error of law in the judgment. The decision of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission was studied closely by officials and the Queen's Counsel and no such error was found. Consequently, there were no grounds on which to contest the decision. However, departments-including, notably, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office-continue to pursue the circumstances in which it would be possible to return these men to Pakistan.

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale: My Lords, the Special Immigration Appeals Commission decided that these two terrorist suspects-they were never charged-could not be deported to Pakistan because of that country's abuse of legal and human rights. Does that not reinforce what was said to be the Government's determination to repeal the Human Rights Act? If that is the case, does it have the enthusiastic support of the Liberal Democrats?

Baroness Neville-Jones: I can recognise wedge-driving when I see it. I do not think that there is a commitment on the part of the coalition to repeal the Human Rights Act. We are certainly going to look at the possibility of a Bill of Rights which is in conformity with the obligations that we have under the Human Rights Act.

Lord Howarth of Newport: What will the coalition do about control orders, of which the Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrat Party and the judges were so critical in recent years? Now that it has responsibility for the lives and safety of the people of this country, what will it do when there is the apprehension of individuals who there is good reason to believe are terrorists; who cannot be deported because of our adherence to the European convention; and against whom the evidence to secure a conviction cannot be produced in court for good reasons of national security?

Baroness Neville-Jones: My Lords, there are two parts to that question. In the particular case we are looking at, I can assure the House that appropriate safety measures have been taken in respect of the individuals concerned. As for control orders, the House may be aware that the coalition has a commitment to review their use. I cannot go further on what the outcome of that review will be until such time as we have conducted it. However, it is clear that we would like to reduce our reliance on such measures as is consistent with the security of this nation.



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Lord Dubs: Would not one way of reducing dependence on control orders be to look again at the question of intercept evidence? Will the Minister indicate whether the coalition is looking at the possibility that intercept evidence might be used in our courts?

Baroness Neville-Jones: My Lords, as the House will be aware, the Chilcot commission is conducting its work but has not yet finished it. I have had discussions on this and I am quite satisfied that the serious work being done by the Chilcot commission needs to be concluded. As the noble Lord knows, we would like to be able to introduce intercept evidence but we have to await the outcome of that work. We will come back to the House.

Lord Avebury: In the SIAC judgment to which the Question refers, was there not a substantial discussion of the risk that these two people, if sent back to Pakistan, would be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment and that therefore it would have been a breach of the ECHR? However, did not SIAC also add that if the two people who went back voluntarily were not subjected to treatment of that kind, the question of whether the two individuals the subject of the Question might be deported could be revisited?

Baroness Neville-Jones: My Lords, the individuals who returned voluntarily did so many months ago, before the hearing. That fact is relevant to the subsequent consideration of the individuals referred to in the Question. The fact that they returned and were not ill treated was one of the reasons for the Government considering that Nasser and Khan would not be ill treated on return. However, the court took the view that this was not sufficiently reliable in their case. The ability to return the two men can be revisited if circumstances change, and we are working on creating the circumstances in which that might be possible.

Lord Harris of Haringey: My Lords, does not the issue whether these two individuals should be deported raise a number of fundamental questions about the way in which national security is to be pursued? First, had intercept been available as evidence, would it have provided a different route for dealing with the individuals? Secondly, do the costs associated with the regime being put around the individuals represent the most efficient way of managing individuals who are considered a severe threat to the UK?

Baroness Neville-Jones: My Lords, those are very good questions. I shall not trespass on the hypothetical question of whether it would have been different had we had intercept as evidence. It is clearly a relevant issue, which is one of the reasons why we want to explore its availability. As for control orders, cost is clearly one element in considering what we need to do to keep the people of this country safe. The efficiency of the regime is also an element. We are considering precisely those issues in our review of control orders.


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