Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page


Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, does my noble and learned friend agree that the ministerial team of the Secretary of State for Scotland frequently gives receptions in Edinburgh Castle? It is a very attractive venue. The receptions are for various groups of people who are helping to develop public policy in Scotland. Does my noble and learned friend agree that the functions are widely appreciated? Not only that, but

17 Jan 1995 : Column 534

those of us who have had the privilege of attending the receptions will guarantee that not much money is spent on central heating.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, we in the Scottish Office would like to have a reputation for frugality in our expenditure on hospitality, without reinforcing the national stereotype of being mean. It is absolutely correct to say that we use the castle regularly. The last function I attended before the one we are discussing was held to thank people the length and breadth of Scotland who had helped the police catch criminals and the like. That is the kind of occasion for which we make use of Edinburgh Castle, and I believe it to be appropriate.

Lord Richard: My Lords, is the Minister aware that when I saw the Question on the Order Paper, I felt obliged to turn to my noble friend Lord Stoddart and ask him what conceivable relationship it had with Brussels? I am delighted to hear from the Minister that there is none.

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. I shall ensure that if I hold a reception which has any European connection, there will be no publication of the event in The Times.

Lord Stodart of Leaston: My Lords, does my noble and learned friend agree that many Members of this House are envious of the fact that Scotland has a location like Edinburgh Castle in which to hold such entertainments?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: Very much so, my Lords. It has always been my experience that, curiously, such a reception in the winter months is even more impressive. Once our guests reach the courtyard at the centre of the castle—particularly if there is mist from the east coast swirling—I have the impression they realise they have arrived somewhere rather special. After that they particularly enjoy the limited hospitality we offer.

Lord Ewing of Kirkford: My Lords, what way is this to treat the general practitioner service in Scotland? Seventy general practitioners are told that if they join the Government's fundholding scheme they will receive an invitation to Edinburgh Castle and a lollipop from the Minister of State while many hundreds of other general practitioners doing marvellous work for their patients are totally ignored. Will the Minister make it absolutely clear that the work of all general practitioners the length and breadth of Scotland is appreciated by the Government and that the Government are not trying to drive a wedge between GP fundholders and non-fundholders?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, I am very happy to offer that reassurance. I recognise, as I believe the noble Lord knows, that the focus of our attention within the National Health Service during the past year has been on primary care. We require the active participation of general practitioners across Scotland to achieve that; I acknowledge the great work they do. The scheme I announced that evening seems to have

17 Jan 1995 : Column 535

attracted the attention of general practitioners in Scotland. I am very pleased to say that, since 25th November, there have been no fewer than 80 expressions of interest in the new primary care purchasing initiative that I announced.

Lord Ennals: My Lords, I have no objection at all to Edinburgh Castle. It is an admirable place in which to hold receptions; I much enjoyed doing so myself when I was a Minister. I want to follow the point made by my noble friend Lord Ewing. Why was it decided that the reception should be just for fundholders? Why was it not open across the board to general practitioners, or to general practitioners from some particular area of the country? Does the Minister agree that the role of general practitioners in our primary health care services is extremely important? Does he accept that any thought of a special bonus for those who are fundholders requires an explanation?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, as I have said more than once, the central aim of the evening was to announce to an audience with a specialist interest a number of changes that we proposed to introduce. I have acknowledged that general practitioners across Scotland do a very important job in the National Health Service. If I am not to be criticised for offering hospitality to doctors, I would be glad to hold receptions for general practitioners not only in Edinburgh Castle but throughout the length and breadth of Scotland.

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove: My Lords, can the Minister give any idea of the percentage of Scottish general practitioners who have become involved in the fundholding group? The impression I get—some of the university research work by Hagger and McAteer suggests this—is that there is resistance and even a fundamental objection among a very large number of Scottish GPs to becoming fundholders? Can the Minister give the House an idea of the percentage? Was that not one of the reasons why the party was held; namely, as a recruiting drive? Finally, have the changes that the Minister announced been published anywhere?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, there are currently 107 operating fundholders in Scotland. They cover something like 20 per cent. of the Scottish population. As I indicated, since the changes to the scheme were announced we have received a further 80 expressions of interest. We anticipate that something like 30 per cent. of the population will be covered by fundholding practices during the year 1995-96.

The fundholders have made improvements in health care in Scotland. I single out Grampian where their combined pressure has brought about important changes in the way that patients have their X-rays done—by direct access on six days of the week. That was of

17 Jan 1995 : Column 536

advantage, not just to the patients of fundholders, but to all National Health Service patients within the health board area.

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, if the reception had not been restricted to fundholders, would it not have cost a good deal more?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: Yes, my Lords.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, following the appreciative remarks that fell from the lips of my noble friend Lord Richard on my own Front Bench, will the noble and learned Lord note that there is substantial opinion in all parts of the House that the Scottish Office should be congratulated for having avoided the gross excesses that take place in Brussels, which some noble Lords appear to wish to condone? In accepting my congratulations that he should have had such an enjoyable evening personally, will the noble and learned Lord guarantee that Scotland will continue to compare favourably with the Commission in Brussels?

Lord Fraser of Carmyllie: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord on his ingenuity. I am sure that his noble friend wishes that he had not been so cheeky as to attempt to distract our attention. When it comes to excesses, I can only reflect that the official Treasury calculation would be that it has cost something like £300 to answer this Question. I hope that we shall not find ourselves indulging in greater excesses in the future.

Civil Evidence (Family Mediation) (Scotland) Bill [H.L.]

3.6 p.m.

Baroness Carnegy of Lour: My Lords, I beg leave to introduce a Bill to make provision for the inadmissibility of evidence in civil proceedings in Scotland of information as to what occurred during family mediation. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.—(Baroness Carnegy of Lour.)

On Question, Bill read a first time, and to be printed.

Business of the House: Debates, 18th January

The Lord Privy Seal (Viscount Cranborne): My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name on the Order Paper.

Moved, That the debate on the Motion in the name of the Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton set down for tomorrow shall be limited to 3 hours and that in the name of the Lord Howell set down for the same day to 2 hours.—(Viscount Cranborne.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

17 Jan 1995 : Column 537

Environment Bill [H.L.]

3.8 p.m.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Viscount Ullswater): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now resolve itself into a Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now resolve itself into Committee.—(Viscount Ullswater.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES in the Chair.]

Lord Norrie moved Amendment No. 1:


Before Clause 1, insert the following new clause:

("Enhancement of environment

. It shall be the duty of all Government Departments, Ministers and agencies, when carrying out their statutory purposes, to do so in a manner which does not damage and, where this is compatible with their statutory purposes, which furthers the conservation and enhancement of the environment and of natural resources.").

The noble Lord said: It is certainly a privilege to be the first to move an amendment on this very important and welcome Bill. Characteristically, I seek more from the Bill than the Government have yet provided. However, I have high hopes that they will consider my points in a positive way.

It would be true to say that no Bill with an environmental dimension has gone through this Chamber in the past six years to which I have not proposed an amendment extending environmental duties to the bodies and decision makers affected by the legislation. This has not been an idle pursuit. There is a longstanding tradition—started, I believe, by my noble friend Lord Renton in the 1950s—of assigning environmental duties to Ministers, government departments and public bodies in order to ensure that environmental issues should not be ignored. Such early duties are to be found in the Electricity Act 1957; the 1958 coal Act; and the Countryside Act 1968. More recently, the Government have either introduced or accepted similar duties—in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981; its 1985 amendment Act; and the Agriculture Act 1986.

When I became involved in environmental matters in the late 1980s with the support of many Members on all sides of this House, happily I was able to persuade the Government to accept duties on Ministers, and others in the Water Act 1989, whose successor clauses we shall discuss later, the Electricity Act 1989, and the Coal Industry Act 1990. Those duties represent an important, if specific, recognition that every person or body, no matter what they are in business to do, has a responsibility for the environment.

The need for such responsibilities has, since the Rio earth summit in 1992, become clearer. The jargon phrase for it is "environmental integration" but it means no more and no less than bringing the environment to the centre of decision-making. I have frequently regretted the fact that there has not been an opportunity to bring together all those duties into a single simple

17 Jan 1995 : Column 538

legislative device capable of ensuring that all Ministers, government departments and public agencies adopt a similar approach.

At last such an opportunity is with us. This Bill is the Government's first general environmental Bill since they accepted the obligations placed on them by the outcome of the earth summit. It provides the perfect opportunity to reinforce in statute the case that they accepted in the 1990 White Paper on the environment; namely, that all government departments should bring the environment into the heart of their decisions.

Therefore, I believe that the Government will welcome what I am trying to achieve in principle. As ever, I am ready to be told that I do not have the drafting of the amendment quite right, in which case I shall be quite happy to discuss alternative forms of words with my noble friend the Minister. But my amendment is practical. It recognises that not every task of every public body or public servant can be made to further the interests of the environment and the conservation of natural resources. But where that is possible, it should be done. At the very least, the environment should not be damaged by the actions of other government departments.

I recognise that some may feel that my amendment goes too far, but I hope that the Committee will understand that I am simply trying to ensure that the environment receives the attention that it deserves. The Government have already introduced an informal system to deliver those objectives; namely, the system of green Ministers, which was established after the 1990 White Paper on the environment. But so far as the public is concerned I am afraid that the green Ministers are invisible. What they do happens behind closed doors. How do we know that it makes any difference? My amendment will bring those responsibilities out into the open. Placing a statutory duty on Ministers along the lines of my amendment would make a genuine difference both to the weight given to environmental concerns and to the public's understanding of what the Government are doing. It would not diminish the importance of economic and social concerns; but, in the manner agreed at Rio, it would ensure that economic and social objectives were pursued in ways that give proper recognition to the environment.

I can make the case for environmental integration at length, but I do not believe that I need to do so. The Government have accepted it and there are eloquent exponents of the concept within their own ranks, with the Secretary of State for the Environment, Mr John Gummer, being prominent among them. Therefore, I look forward to the positive response that my noble friend the Minister will give to the amendment. I beg to move.


Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page