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Lord Lucas: My Lords, as regards the first question, the Single Regeneration Budget is for regeneration; but the ordinary maintenance of parks ought to fall within the councils' ordinary budget. The SRB exists for improvements, for regeneration and the creation of new facilities. As regards the noble Lord's other questions, I shall write in answer to him.

The Countess of Mar: My Lords, what advice do the Government give to local authorities on the use of pesticides and weed killers on open land to which the public have access? Is he aware that in a recent court case relating to a young child who was sprayed with glyphosate the parents won about £10,000? Is he further aware that a number of children have been badly affected by the improper use of pesticides?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, I confess myself entirely at fault; I had not anticipated a supplementary question from the noble Countess. I should have done because usually I am asked a question. I am not aware of any particular regulations relating to spraying in parks which do not apply to the ordinary application of what in many circumstances are dangerous chemicals. However, I shall look into the matter and write to the noble Countess.

Lord Skelmersdale: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that since the Royal Parks became a next steps

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agency, their maintenance has improved by leaps and bounds. That is particularly so in Regent's Park where, I believe, the eastern edge has been completely reconstituted to make a formal herbaceous border which is looking particularly fine at this moment. I saw it only 10 days ago.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, my noble friend has great expertise in those matters. I am sure that he is right. I wish that I had more time to enjoy the beauty of London parks than I do.

Lord Renton: My Lords, I appreciate that the Secretary of State for the Environment is the final court of appeal in planning cases, subject, of course, to judicial review. Will my noble friend take seriously what the noble Baroness, Lady Nicol, said so wisely about Spring Common, which is like a nature reserve and about which the people of Huntingdon are feeling very strongly because they do not want it developed.

Lord Lucas: My Lords, yes.

The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, will the Minister accept that Vauxhall is a wonderful example of success regarding inner London spaces? However, South London deserves a greater priority. I have just walked through Vauxhall. To whom do we owe the beauty of the spaces of Vauxhall? Is it Lambeth Council in the 1970s or can the Government take some credit for that?

Lord Lucas: My Lords, far be it for me ever to try to take credit away from Lambeth Council.

Discrimination: Monitoring in DSS and Agencies

2.51 p.m.

Lord Ashley of Stoke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to cut the budget for monitoring discrimination within the Department of Social Security and related agencies; and, if so, by how much.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): My Lords, there is no separate budget for equality monitoring. The great majority of equal opportunities monitoring is carried out as an integral part of the wider monitoring of the department's personnel work and this will continue.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, I am grateful for that reply. But is the Minister aware that that is at odds with a report in the Guardian which made it very clear that cuts are proposed? In fact, the Minister for disabled people commented on the proposed cuts and their effect. Is the Minister aware that all anti-discrimination policies are merely hot air unless they are monitored effectively? The proposed cuts which have been reported will undoubtedly lead to less effective monitoring on disablement, sex and race by the department. That

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would be extremely regrettable because the Government should lead by example. Despite the Minister's response, it looks as though they are leading a retreat.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I assure the noble Lord, Lord Ashley of Stoke, that equal opportunities monitoring will continue in the department. But of course, we must look critically at our costs across the board in relation to how the department is run.

As regards disability, we are signed up to the fast-track scheme, a development programme for graduates with disabilities, at a cost of £20,000 over two years. We also provide disability awareness training at a cost of £20,000. We have a significant number of registered disabled staff and, in addition, there is an equally significant number of disabled staff who do not register.

Lord Clark of Kempston: My Lords, does my noble friend not agree that many of the reports coming from the Guardian should be treated with a large pinch of salt because, in many cases, they are misguided and misinform the general public? However, does he not agree that his department should discriminate in particular between fraudulent and genuine claims?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, I shall not comment on whether or not one should believe everything that one reads in the Guardian. That is largely because I do not read it myself and therefore am unable to make a judgment about such matters.

The second part of my noble friend's question is somewhat wider than his initial remark. My noble friend is quite right. The department is always working to make sure that we discriminate between those who genuinely require benefits and those who are making fraudulent claims. Currently, there is a very successful campaign taking place throughout the country to weed out those people who are making fraudulent claims.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that the DSS is proposing a 50 per cent. cut in its budget for monitoring discrimination? Will he confirm what his honourable friend, Mr. Alistair Burt, said; namely, that:

    "We have decided not to undertake any ethnicity follow-up surveys within the department or its agencies in the next three years"? He then went on to say:

    "This action will not affect our ability to promote equal opportunities and eliminate discrimination in the workplace".

If the Government do not monitor, how will they know?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, the position is quite simple. We have undertaken ethnicity monitoring and we have had a very good response to that--something like 86 per cent. When we looked at all the other demands on the taxpayers' money in the department's budget, we decided that we should not undertake any ethnicity monitoring for the next three years following the surveys that we already have. That does not mean that our personnel department will not be actively pursuing equal opportunities for people on grounds of race, sex, or disablement.

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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, if the Government do not monitor, how do they know whether those purposes are being fulfilled?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, we shall monitor equal opportunities across the board. The point about the ethnicity study is that that sought to establish how many people of different ethnic groups work in the department and its agencies. The most important point is that we have a good base for those figures. There was an 86 per cent. return. We shall continue to monitor equal opportunities and, as I indicated, I believe that my department has an extremely good record in relation to disability.

Lord Ashley of Stoke: My Lords, will the Minister not agree that, first, he gave the House the clear impression that there had been no cuts and now he seems to be indicating that there are cuts? Secondly, there is no question of anyone believing all that they read in the papers, but this is a case of believing a specific report which includes the comments of one of the noble Lord's ministerial colleagues acknowledging the point. Will the Minister please tell the House exactly where the Government stand? At first they said that we did not need anti-discrimination legislation on disability and opposed successive Bills for 13 years. They then said that we do require anti-discrimination legislation and they brought forward a Bill. They are now saying that they will cut the amount of monitoring which takes place. Will the Minister tell the House whether the Government are coming or going?

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: My Lords, the Government are governing this country extremely sensibly. They are keeping public expenditure under control in a way which the Opposition certainly would not do because they oppose every proposal which I bring before your Lordships' House to contain government spending. But I am surprised that the noble Lord, Lord Ashley, is not more generous in his appreciation of the fact that we piloted last year the Disability Discrimination Act. We--and especially my honourable friend Mr. Alistair Burt--are working very hard on implementing that Act.

As I indicated, we have taken steps to control the overall budget of the department. That includes the particular aspect of ethnic monitoring and so on. But I indicated quite clearly in my original Answer to the noble Lord that we spend money and time on ensuring that disabled people in the DSS are able to play a full part, right up to some of the highest levels of the officials in the department.

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