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Lord Razzall: My Lords, does the noble Lord accept that, although it is undoubtedly the case that National Savings pensioners bonds represent a very small proportion of the difficulty, falling interest rates are a particular problem for people who are approaching retirement, in particular those who are compelled to purchase annuities with their self-employed pension funds at a time when the rate of annuity has dropped dramatically? Are the Government prepared to consider making changes to the regulations to prevent people who are approaching retirement being placed in a very difficult position?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the trends that the noble Lord identified have an effect on the

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incomes of those pensioners who have investments and are about to purchase annuities. But the noble Lord must look at it in the context of the provision for all pensioners, including the poorest, who benefit from the reduction in inflation that accompanies the reduction in interest rates. I suggest to the noble Lord that that is a more significant factor.

Lord Marsh: My Lords, does the noble Lord agree that the problem in relation to annuities is that new pensioners have no choice but to buy annuities which, through nobody's fault, have dropped to a level that in the past people did not think would be likely? Does the noble Lord also agree that that is coupled with the proposed upward revision of actuarial mortality tables which will increase the problems faced by pensioners? I do not blame the Government for these matters but they are facts. Does the Minister agree that they cannot be just swept away and that there should be a review of these specific problems?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I have no lack of sympathy for those who have chosen to enter pension schemes that involve the purchase of an annuity at the point of retirement and now find them less valuable. To that extent I do not disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Marsh. But these are individual choices for which the Government are not responsible. It is a bit hard for those who continue to plead for less government to expect us to intervene in such circumstances.

Olympic Games: Support for Potential Competitors

3.2 p.m.

Lord Montague of Oxford: asked Her Majesty's Government:

What action they are taking to assist potential British competitors in next year's Olympic Games in Sydney.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, support for potential British competitors in next year's Olympic Games in Sydney is channelled mainly through the Lottery Sports Fund's World Class Performance Programme. In 1997-98 and 1998-99 grants totalling over £52 million have been awarded in the UK and England to support some 1,200 athletes in 19 Olympic and Paralympic sports. Additional assistance will be provided through the UK Sports Council's programmes for Athlete Career and Education, "Success in Sydney" and Elite Coach Education.

Lord Montague of Oxford: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that response, which is certainly encouraging. Does he believe that there may be a link between the amount of time that schools devote to sport and our sporting performance? At the moment the average in schools is one-and-a-half hours a week. Four Olympics ago we gained 36 medals and at the last Olympic Games that figure had gone down to 17, of which only one was gold. In France during the same period the time devoted by schools to sport has doubled

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and the number of Olympic medals that they have won has more than doubled, and in the previous Olympic Games they won 15. Should we not devote more time to sport in schools?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I entirely agree with my noble friend that we should give more support to younger athletes. That is the responsibility, above all, of my department. Of the £52 million to which I referred in my main Answer, in England a substantial amount is going to younger athletes. That is the relationship to which we should look. As one who tried to avoid sport throughout my school career, perhaps I am not qualified to comment on my noble friend's other suggestion.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, can the noble Lord inform the House about the status of the Institute of Sport? Is that body operational or still merely an idea?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness. The UK Sports Institute was launched this morning with £100 million of lottery funds. At the suggestion of top athletes throughout the UK, it will consist of a network of facilities for athletes around the country, with the hub at Sheffield, where provision will be made for such specialist facilities as high level sports medicine and other matters that can be provided only on a national basis.

The Earl of Stockton: My Lords, can the noble Lord assure the House that some of these resources will be devoted to our most successful discipline at all Olympic and Commonwealth Games; namely, shooting, and in particular pistol shooting, where competitors in this country are no longer able to practise their sport within the United Kingdom?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, the Government play a role in the allocation of funds for sport as a whole. It is the Sports Council that determines the allocation as between different sports. I do not seek to intervene in that matter. I am instinctively opposed to what the noble Earl said.

Lord Chesham: My Lords, the noble Lord appears to take great pleasure in announcing the funds that are channelled into sports. He made reference to £52 million and an extra £100 million. Does he agree that those funds have come from the lottery and are not government funds at all? Further, does he agree that the Government should not have any hand in or direction of those funds under the terms of the National Lottery Etc. Act?

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, that was why I responded as I did to the noble Earl, Lord Stockton. The noble Lord is right that these are lottery funds, although there is a considerable involvement by government and local authorities. But if he is suggesting that we should not take credit for any of the sporting activities that we encourage the lottery

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to provide, he should recall that athletes themselves and sporting organisations have been giving very generous credit to the Government.

Business

Lord Carter: My Lords, at a convenient moment after 3.30 p.m. my noble friend Lady Hayman will, with the leave of the House, repeat a Statement that is being made in another place on the Royal Commission report on long-term care and the Government's response.

Health Bill [H.L.]

3.7 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): My Lords, I beg to move that the House do now again resolve itself into Committee on this Bill.

Moved, That the House do now again resolve itself into Committee.--(Baroness Hayman.)

On Question, Motion agreed to.

House in Committee accordingly.

[The CHAIRMAN OF COMMITTEES in the Chair.]

Clause 13 [Duty of quality]:

[Amendment No. 71 not moved.]

Lord Clement-Jones moved Amendment No. 72:


Page 11, line 9, after ("care") insert ("and the equity of treatment").

The noble Lord said: I am at somewhat of a disadvantage until my noble friend enters the Chamber. Amendment No. 72 deals with the equity of treatment to be considered by the commission for health improvement. This is cognate with a number of our other amendments to the remainder of the Bill, in particular the amendment about equality of opportunity that the Committee considered on Thursday last in the context of primary care groups. Clearly, we believe that it is necessary for the commission for health improvement to have a duty to consider not just the quality of clinical care but the equity of treatment. We regard this as very much part of the Government's public health agenda. It was also considered last year in the report of Sir Donald Acheson, which we very much welcomed as a way of looking at the kinds of indicators of health improvement and inequalities of health that needed to be remedied.

We believe that this is a valuable and necessary amendment. We commend it to the Committee as part of a package of improvements to the Bill. It would make it a specific duty on the bodies set up by the Bill to consider equity and equality of opportunity. I beg to move.

Lord Astor of Hever: I support Amendment No. 105. We believe strongly that age should not be used as a factor in rationing. A recent survey by Age Concern discovered that 20 per cent. of coronary care units operate age-related

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admission policies and 40 per cent. attach age restrictions in the giving of clot-busting drug therapy after heart attacks. Yet the Government continue to maintain that older people are not discriminated against in the NHS. As a result, doctors are forced to make rationing decisions on behalf of the Government, sometimes against the best interests of their patients. Those decisions are often made covertly and without the patient being informed that treatment is being denied because of lack of resources. I very much hope that the Minister will accept the argument that the commission should have a legal responsibility to provide healthcare to all patients on the basis of need and not age.


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