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Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, we are aware that there are pressures on local authority budgets and that in some instances this has led to the kind of cuts described by my noble friend. I hope she was encouraged by the fact that my right honourable friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced in his Budget that the tax allowance that had previously been available only to men with children whose wives were incapacitated was being extended to mothers with dependent children and incapacitated husbands. This removes an anomaly in the tax situation, and we hope it will enable more carers to return to work.

There are also the questions raised by the new deal for the disabled detailed in the Green Paper last week. We hope that the reforms we propose will enable disabled people to have a better deal, with proper rights and opportunities to work, which should as a result allow those who care for them to have the same rights and opportunities.

Viscount Bridgeman: My Lords, in view of the increasing length of hospital waiting lists, will the

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Minister particularly address the need for respite for carers of people waiting, often for long periods, for admission to hospital?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, that is a helpful suggestion. One of the advantages that we found of providing additional money during the winter for support for people living in the community to try to prevent unnecessary acute hospital admissions was that many people were able to be supported at home and to come out of hospital more quickly because their carers had better support in their home circumstances, which was obviously better for everybody.

Lord Rix: My Lords, does the Minister mean that, even if the short-term breaks project recommends legislation such as the Disabled persons and Carers (Short-Term Breaks) Bill presently being considered in another place to implement full caring in the community for carers and disabled people, it will not be forthcoming?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I cannot predict either the results of the project to which the noble Lord refers or the outcome of the Government's response to it. We will take seriously any suggestions made in the report but, as the noble Lord will be aware, the pressures on the legislative timetable at the moment are extreme.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, have the Government any idea of the additional cost to the National Health Service and social services due to the breakdown in the health of carers, who sometimes work extremely long hours? If not, do the Government intend to undertake any research into the matter?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I imagine that that will be part of the review of the working of the carers recognition Act. The Social Services Inspectorate is looking at the whole rounded picture. It will also be relevant to the long-term care charter, on which my honourable friend who has departmental responsibility for that area is working at the moment. On the other side of the coin, it has been estimated that providing short-term breaks on a completely legally-based rights system, as suggested in the Question, could cost anything between £300 million and £900 million a year.

Lord Addington: My Lords, while the review is taking place, can it be borne in mind that, if carers are allowed to maintain their role as carers for longer periods due to relief from the physical and mental stress for both themselves and those for whom they are caring, we may save money in the long run by introducing a properly funded and enacted system which will allow that caring to go on in the community?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I entirely support the noble Lord's position. As I said in my initial response to my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley, we all recognise the enormous importance of short-term breaks for those who care for people with long-term disabilities and for those who suffer from the disabilities. We must

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ensure that good practice is conducted throughout the country. That is why it is important that the Carers (Recognition and Services) Act is fully implemented with all the resources necessary at the local level.

Lord Murray of Epping Forest: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that estimates of the numbers of young carers--that is to say, young people and children under the age of 18 who are caring for disabled adults--vary between 15,000 and 50,000? Does my noble friend agree that the main reason for that lack of knowledge is that, though the carers Act 1995 to which she refers entitles all carers to assessment, few local authorities have taken the trouble to find out how many young carers there are in their community?

Does the Minister acknowledge also that in January of this year Mr. Justice McCullough held that the London Borough of Newham unlawfully failed to assess the needs of young carers in Newham? Will she therefore ensure that all local authorities undertake within the next 12 months to conduct a systematic study of the number of young carers in their communities and to publish the results? In the light of that, will the Minister reconsider whether, if local authorities continue to ignore the Act, legislative action will be taken?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for giving that extremely useful example of where the Carers (Recognition and Services) Act does not seem to be being properly implemented at local level. He will be aware that the problems of young people, particularly school-age children who are acting as carers, are something of which we are acutely aware and where we see specific needs. He will be aware also that those children and young people are covered by the carers Act. But I am grateful to him for drawing that example to my attention. I shall certainly look into it if he writes to me, although again I cannot guarantee any legislative result arising from the inquiry.

Lord Higgins: My Lords, can the Minister tell us whether she has received representations on this important subject from the British Medical Association? If so, what response did she make?

Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, I have not received any deputation or correspondence from the British Medical Association. I will inquire whether my honourable friend Mr. Boateng, who has departmental responsibility for this area, received any. If so, I shall write to the noble Lord.

Lord Monkswell: My Lords, bearing in mind the Answer my noble friend's noble friend gave to the previous Question and the specific distress that carers of sufferers of new variant CJD experience--bearing in mind that the diagnosis cannot be made until after death--what case will the carers have to take legal action against the animal feed compounders and the individual Ministers who previously made the decision that feed compounders should not necessarily be required to list all the ingredients in the animal foodstuffs?

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Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, my noble friend is extremely ingenious in eliding those two questions. However, his question is not relevant to the Question on the Order Paper regarding carers. In all questions of no-fault compensation and compensation where negligence can be proved, as he will be aware, the answers are extremely complicated and legally involved in relation to the National Health Service. I am willing to pursue the matter with him outside the Chamber if he so wishes.

Animal Health (Amendment) Bill

Brought from the Commons, read a first time, and to be printed.

Pesticides Bill

Brought from the Commons, read a first time, and to be printed.

Bank of England Bill

3.7 p.m.

Read a third time.

Clause 15 [Publication of minutes of meetings]:

Lord Barnett moved Amendment No. 1:


Page 6, line 43, at end insert--
("( ) The Bank shall publish at the same time forecasts of all macro-economic variables considered by the Monetary Policy Committee as background to their deliberations.").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, my noble friend Lord Peston apologises that he is unable to be present today and I am happy to move this amendment of behalf of us both.

Amendment No. 1 is straightforward and I look forward to hearing that my noble friend will be able to accept it. The objective of the amendment is to ensure that the Bank provides us--that is, the House of Lords as well as everybody else--with all the necessary statistics and forecasts on which the Monetary Policy Committee makes its decisions. It is vital for us to know them because, if we do not know the basis of the decisions of the Monetary Policy Committee, if we do not know what its assumptions are about the outlook of the principal economic variants, we will not be able to interpret, for example, its minutes. It is crucial therefore that we have that information.

It would be equally impossible to check whether the committee sought to comply with the requirements to support the Government's economic policy which are written into the Bill, albeit regrettably coming second after inflation--about which my noble friend and I tabled an amendment in Committee and the Minister felt unable to accept. I regret that and perhaps he will now have second thoughts in that regard. I look forward to hearing from him on that point also.

It is important that the implications for the exchange rate--though that will not be necessary once we are members of the European Central Bank, which I hope

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will not be too far ahead--and employment are understood. I put that in only to upset my noble friend Lord Bruce of Donington. It is not very relevant. My noble friend knows that I love him dearly and that I always try to give him something to deal with.

It is important to ensure that when the Bank of England and the Monetary Policy Committee collect regional, sectoral and other information for the purposes of formulating monetary policy they are able to let us know what their assessments and assumptions are. Without that information, we will not be able to conclude in this House, in another place and elsewhere whether the decisions taken are reasonably correct. That is another reason why it is important that the amendment should be accepted.

Furthermore, it is important that the Monetary Policy Committee sets out in ways which do not confuse or mislead financial markets precisely what is the background to their policy decisions. Transparency is crucial. There is a serious problem between independence and transparency. I speak as one who supports the idea of giving the Bank of England and its Monetary Policy Committee the power to decide on interest rates. However, it is equally important that there should be transparency and accountability to both Houses of Parliament and to the public at large. The amendment seeks to enable this House to come to a clear conclusion on the reasons behind the decisions of the Monetary Policy Committee on interest rates.

It is vital that we in your Lordships' House and not just the Treasury Select Committee of another place should have a say in this matter. I want to make it clear to my noble friend the Minister that, whatever he is able to tell us today, my noble friend Lord Peston and I intend to press the matter further and that a Select Committee of your Lordships' House should be able to consider the issue and look at the whole reasoning behind the decisions of the Bank of England and the Monetary Policy Committee.

I have the honour to chair a sub-committee of the European Communities Select Committee. However, as I am sure my noble friend will know, that committee is extremely busy with many other issues and certainly would never have time to look closely at what the Monetary Policy Committee and the Governor of the Bank of England are doing. I know that it is not for my noble friend to say whether there should be such a Select Committee. However, my noble friend Lord Peston and I intend to ask the Leader of the House to set up such a committee. I hope your Lordships will agree that what we are proposing is not unreasonable. I hope particularly that we will not be told that we cannot have such a committee because of administrative reasons or a shortage of Hansard reporters or of committee rooms. That would be intolerable and I am sure my noble friend would not put that forward as an excuse for not having such a Select Committee. I am delighted to see the noble Lord, Lord Ampthill, who is a former Chairman of Committees, nodding in agreement.

I know that my noble friend the Minister will not be able to tell us today that he is willing to recommend the setting up of such a committee. However, whatever he

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says and whatever anyone else says, my noble friend and I have every intention of pressing this matter strongly. It is crucial both for the present monetary committee and eventually for the European Central Bank that there should be a Select Committee of your Lordships' House that is able to give proper consideration to what those bodies are doing. I beg to move.

3.15 p.m.

Lord Bruce of Donington: My Lords, the noble Lord has been kind enough to mention his anxiety that I ought to be convinced of the wisdom of the remarks he has made. I have to tell your Lordships that, for reasons I will not go into this afternoon but which will become known in due course, I have been excluded from all committees connected with the European Community. I shall not go into the reasons--possibly the anniversary of the occasion would be appropriate for that.

I am quite sure that the noble Lord would be only too anxious to help the Government on this because he is seeking a concession. If the noble Lord had enlarged his speech just a little--he is always very brief--by a list of what he considers to be the economic variables, that would have been helpful. The noble Lord is skilled in these matters both professionally and as a former member of the Council of Ministers. He is well aware of the nature and extent of the economic variables which he has dealt with in general terms. I wonder whether, possibly a little later in the debate, he will consider acquainting the House and the Government as to the economic variables he has in mind. Will he also take into account the possibility of all the economic variables not relating to the same period, being available in accelerated or de-accelerated form, and state what other characteristics he considers ought to be taken into account by all reasonable people to whom these matters should be explained in quite simple terms so that the House as well as the Government may be able to arrive at some reasonable consideration of these matters?

Will he also answer the question--when he complies with my request as I am sure he will be able to do--whether at the same time these various variables have reacted against one another, particularly where they do not relate to identical periods? In other words, I should like him to inform the House as to the extent to which he and possibly the Government are committed to the new science of econometrics, which pays increasing reference to what is called the government model, presumably being the computer model. If the noble Lord can clarify the position a little, it would be for the material use not only of myself, who is not important in these matters, but of the House as a whole.


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