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Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, the noble Countess is right in that we do support this organisation from the Department of Health and have provided £25,000 each year over three years. If it wishes to make an additional request to us, we will consider it. If it has a cashflow problem, as I believe is the case, we would be willing to consider a bridging arrangement.

Lord Hailsham of Saint Marylebone: My Lords, can my noble friend assist me? What is "bug busting", and why does it require a campaign?

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, I believe it is commonly known as "nits".

Lord Morris of Castle Morris: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the "bug busting" campaign is a non-pesticidal, non-toxic, effective and cheap answer to what is a widespread and very distressing problem, especially among children? Until yesterday the DoH said that it was the DfE's problem, and then the DfE said that it was the DoH's problem. Is not that a perfect example of departmental nit-picking? Is it impossible for those two huge departments to split the difference and each find £577 a month to continue funding that conspicuously successful initiative, which is only asking for £3,500 a quarter for all the work that it does? Failing that, could one of those departments not accept full responsibility for funding it and admit that "the bug stops here"?

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, there has never been any doubt about which department is responsible for the organisation. It was the organisation, which

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thought that it could get more money from another department, that has caused the confusion. The Department of Health has always been responsible for nits. I have never quite understood why I deserve that.

Lord Glenamara: My Lords, can the noble Baroness tell us what has happened to the small toothcomb, which many of us suffered in our youth? Why not bring it back? There would then be no need for chemicals.

Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, that is the cheap element in the "bug busting" campaign. The pack produced by that organisation includes a very fine toothcomb. Parents and teachers can use it to eradicate nits.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there are education implications in not supporting the campaign? Has an estimate been made of the number of school days lost when children are excluded from school because of nits?

Baroness Cumberlege: No, my Lords, I am not aware of the figures for the number of children who do not attend school because of that fact. We believe that parents feel strongly about the problem, as do teachers. That is why we support this organisation and indeed general practitioners and school nurses, who not only use that method but also apply lotions to the children.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, is it not the case that historically schools have been very much involved in diagnosing and head louse treatments and telling parents what to do when their children are found to have head lice? Does she agree that it is therefore very important that school nurses, teachers and others are properly taught how to use the "bug busting" procedures? It involves using an ordinary shampoo, lots of conditioner and combing out the hair while still very wet. That is repeated for four times in a fortnight, during which period all adult head lice are removed and no eggs are laid. If it is not used properly it will fail.

Baroness Cumberlege: Yes, my Lords.

Legal Aid: Fees Policy

2.52 p.m.

Lord Taverne asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to encourage a fixed price service from lawyers in legal aid cases.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): My Lords, there are already standard fee schemes in place for magistrates' court cases and for shorter cases in the Crown Court. During the coming year, I hope to introduce graduated fees for advocates in the Crown Court, which will extend the existing scheme, and standard fees for both advocates and litigators in civil cases. In the longer term, the contracting proposals set

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out in the Green Paper, Legal Aid--Targeting Need moved, towards securing the provision of legal services at a fixed price.

Lord Taverne: My Lords, I welcome the noble and learned Lord's Answer and urge him to press ahead with the proposals for the franchising firms that offer fixed fees. Does he agree that, since severe constraints on legal aid are a denial of justice and there must inevitably be a compromise to ensure access for as many people as possible, one of the most important aspects of limiting costs may be fixing fees? Can he tell us the reaction of the professionals to his initiatives?

The Lord Chancellor: My Lords, I agree with the general view that has been expressed by the noble Lord that it is wise to do what one can to eliminate the expense per case if one wishes to get as good a distribution as possible of legal aid to those who need it. I believe it would be right for me to say that my moves in those directions have not been warmly and universally welcomed by the legal profession. But the Bar Council particularly has been extremely helpful in preparing the scheme for graduated fees for advocates in the Crown Court. The Law Society also participated in that process and in relation to advocates and litigators in civil cases as well. While matters were difficult for a time, they may well be improving somewhat.

Al Fayed Brothers: Nationality Decision

2.55 p.m.

Lord Spens asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will reconsider their decision not to grant British nationality to the Al Fayed brothers.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, we have no plans to do so.

Lord Spens: My Lords, now that it is no longer a serious offence to mislead, and given that that allegation is at the centre of the refusal of the Home Secretary to grant British nationality to those two gentlemen, does the Minister feel that it is time to put aside past prejudices and revisit this application, bearing in mind the enormous contribution made to the economy of this country and to charities by the Al Fayed brothers?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I must take issue with the implied criticism that my right honourable friend acted improperly. The courts found that he acted lawfully in all aspects of this case.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, I do not wish in any way to suggest that the Home Secretary has acted at all improperly in this matter. But can the Minister say, in considering the position of Mr. Al Fayed, whether any evaluation has been placed upon his activities 11 years ago, when he acted as an intermediary between the Government and the Sultan of Brunei-- the Sultan of Brunei decided to support the British pound, which at that time was standing at 99 cents--and whether all that can be taken in the balance? Is she

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aware that that action avoided having the Government run cap in hand to the International Monetary Fund at that time?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, it would be improper for me to give reasons as to what was taken into account in this case. Indeed, my right honourable friend has no obligation at all to do so. Charitable works and goods works can be taken into account. All that is contained within Schedule 1 to the 1981 Act; namely, residency requirements, knowledge of the English, Welsh or Scottish Gaelic languages, restriction under immigration laws, intention to make principal home in the United Kingdom and whether or not a person is of good character. But it would be improper for me to go into any further detail.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Fayed brothers have been described by the DTI as--

Noble Lords: Order, order!

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I am sure that none of your Lordships would ever want to see a Speaker introduced into our proceedings. I am in the hands of the House. As we have plenty of time, I wonder whether the House will allow the noble Lord, Lord Wyatt, to speak next and other noble Lords will come in later.

Lord Wyatt of Weeford: My Lords, is the Minister aware that the Fayed brothers have been described by the DTI as having cheated and lied their way into buying Harrods, at which point they also cheated the Sultan of Brunei, although he is not willing to engage in a public controversy about it? Should not those two people be deported as undesirable aliens?

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I must repeat what I said earlier. It would be improper for me to respond to that kind of comment or question. I think that it would be improper of this House to discuss any individual in that way.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, not wishing in any way to follow the line of discussing the merits of this application, does not the grant of British nationality lie within the discretion of the Home Secretary, subject to limited control by the courts under judicial review? If that is so, and leaving aside the merits, can my noble friend say how may the Government reconsider, looking at the Question, a decision that was never made?

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