Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that her reply to the noble Earl, Lord Howe, means that the Dryburn hospital scheme, compared to a publicly funded scheme, provided worse value over 30 years than over 60 years?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, we do not have the figures for five years, 10 years, 20 years, 30 years, or 40 years. The standard economic appraisal accepted across the board and by the Treasury against which

17 Mar 1999 : Column 724

value for money should be judged is the full economic life of the asset. That is 60 years for hospitals and that is the appropriate comparator to use.

Carers: Right to Assessment

2.59 p.m.

Baroness Pitkeathley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to improve carers' awareness of their right to an assessment under the Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, our recently published National Carers Strategy made it clear that general practitioners and primary care teams should tell carers about their right to an assessment from social services. My honourable friend John Hutton, the Minister with responsibility for carers, recently launched the "Ask for an Assessment" campaign, run by the Carers National Association, which is designed to raise carers' awareness of assessments.

Baroness Pitkeathley: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. I am sure that she is aware that all the research shows that more needs to be done at a local level to ensure that carers are aware of their rights. It is to that end that the Carers National Association has initiated a campaign, launched by the Minister with responsibility for carers, with the aid of the Prudential Carers Awareness Fund. Can the Minister tell us the Government's view of the recommendation in the National Carers Strategy that all carers should be entitled to at least an annual discussion of what they need and what is available and how the Government intend to ensure that carers actually receive that?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I agree with the noble Baroness that we need to raise local awareness, and that is why the Carers National Association campaign will be particularly helpful. I also agree that carers, particularly those who provide a great deal of care, should be able to expect at least an annual discussion of what they need, what is available, the help they receive and the care provided. An annual discussion is important because people's needs change over time. We are in the process of finding out what is being done on the ground and how many assessments are taking place so that in due course we can publish guidance to local authorities on this subject. One of the ways in which we shall ensure that this is done is through the new performance assessment framework for social services, which is intended to include the number of assessments of carers' needs as one of its indicators.

Lord Rix: My Lords, is the Minister aware that in a recent survey conducted by MENCAP it was discovered that over 40 per cent. of carers of people with a learning disability had been unable to have an evening off in the previous six months? Can the Minister hold out any

17 Mar 1999 : Column 725

hope that before the end of this Parliament short-term breaks may become a statutory right for such hard-working and often elderly carers?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Rix, has been pre-eminent among many others in arguing the case for short breaks for carers, their importance and their cost-effectiveness in allowing people who take on a tremendous responsibility to continue to do so. That is why, as part of the Carers' Strategy, we have allocated a grant of £140 million over three years for local authorities to provide short-term breaks for carers, particularly those with substantial responsibilities. As the noble Lord will be aware, we are looking at ways of doing that more flexibly than in the past so that when carers take breaks the person for whom they care can continue to receive care in the home.

Lord Swinfen: My Lords, does not the Minister agree that proper support for carers will reduce the cost to social services and to the National Health Service over the long term for both the carer and the cared-for?

Baroness Hayman: I absolutely agree with the noble Lord. That was the concept to which I alluded when I referred to short breaks as being cost effective, as well as the right thing to do.

Lord Laming: My Lords, does the Minister agree that special consideration should be given in future guidance to the needs of the growing numbers of young people who take on a heavy burden in caring for a parent, sometimes with high dependency needs? That care is often given at the expense of a young person's education and normal contact with other young people.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, yes, this is an important area which was perhaps not properly recognised in the past. It was certainly recognised in the Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995, and children who act as carers are covered by that Act. Within the National Carers Strategy we also outlined our concern that the needs of these children, which can often be overlooked in a school setting, should be properly addressed. We are hoping to have someone responsible in every school for ensuring that, in one way or another, support is given to these vulnerable children.

Lord Astor of Hever: My Lords, when does the Minister expect that legislation will be introduced to allow local authorities to provide services directly to carers?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Astor, implies, we are anxious to allow local authorities to provide direct services to carers, not simply to those who are cared for, and that was part of the National Carers Strategy. We shall do it as soon as legislative time permits. The House would not expect me to say anything different. If it is helpful, I can certainly say that we are anxious to get on with it.

Baroness Ludford: My Lords, can the Minister say what plans the Government have to help carers with

17 Mar 1999 : Column 726

regard to pensions, given that they are unable to make pension contributions, and whether the Government have proposals for ensuring that carers qualify for old age pensions?

Baroness Hayman: Yes, my Lords. In future, time spent caring will qualify carers for entitlement to a second pension. It is a major step forward and will represent a significant improvement in the financial position of carers and former carers on reaching state pension age. I believe that that is a proper recognition of the value of the work they do when they are caring.

Parliamentary Government Bill [H.L.]

3.6 p.m.

Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to make new provision about parliamentary government and for connected purposes. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a first time.--(Viscount Cranborne.)

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

House of Lords Bill

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


Lord Carter: My Lords, I think the House will find it helpful if I take this opportunity to outline the Government's proposals for the Second Reading debate on the House of Lords Bill. It is proposed that the Second Reading debate should begin on Monday 29th March and run until the end of business on Tuesday 30th March. In order to accommodate the large number of speakers expected to attend, however, I propose to go further than merely setting aside two days for the debate on the Bill. I propose that the House should sit at 11 a.m. on the second morning in order to increase the time available for debate. This should allow the House to rise at a reasonable time on the Tuesday. Wednesday will, as usual, be for balloted debates. The House will not sit on Maundy Thursday. The list of speakers for the Second Reading is now open in the Government Whips' Office in the usual way.

I should like to take this opportunity to clarify my remarks yesterday, at column 652 of the Official Report, when I indicated that my noble friend the Leader of the House had inadvertently omitted to read page 3 of the Statement on the European Commission. For the sake of completeness, I have been asked to state for the record that my reference to page 3 was to the third, fourth, fifth and sixth paragraphs of the Statement that is now printed at column 629 of yesterday's Official Report.

Lord Henley: My Lords, I thank the Government Chief Whip for that apology on behalf of the Leader of

17 Mar 1999 : Column 727

the House. Those of us who were not in the Chamber when the Statement was repeated were somewhat confused by his references yesterday and, when we acquired Hansard today, we were not sure which part of the Statement the noble Baroness had not repeated to this House. I am grateful to the noble Lord for clarifying the position.

I now turn to the first part of the Chief Whip's Statement. We on these Benches have considerable concern and deep disquiet about his proposal that we should proceed quite so rapidly to the Second Reading of this very important Bill, and in Holy Week, too.

The noble Lord proposes that we should have about 23 hours of debate on the Bill beginning at 2.30 on Monday and 11.30 on Tuesday in a week when many noble Lords will be away and will have difficulty attending. Many noble Lords have already made arrangements for Tuesday morning and will find it quite difficult to attend on that occasion. We have looked at business taken in Holy Week during the past few years. The noble Lord knows perfectly well that on a number of occasions relatively controversial Bills--but only relatively controversial ones--have been considered at that time, but that occurred with the agreement of the usual channels on both sides of the House. On this occasion there has been no agreement on this side of the House. I am upset that the noble Lord has not acceded to our request to deal with this matter on a later occasion.

The noble Lord well knows that we have co-operated with the Government a great deal on a large number of Bills. We assisted them on the Health Bill by allowing them to have the debate a day earlier to allow them to send it back to another place a whole week earlier. We assisted on the Road Traffic (NHS Charges) Bill. We have not even objected to the fact that there is to be a debate next Monday on a report of the European Communities Committee, despite the fact that that has not been discussed with the usual channels and is being held only a matter of four days after the publication of that particular report. I make these remarks purely to show that we have co-operated with the Government and will continue to do so as and where it is appropriate. We object to the Government's attempt to steamroller through a Bill of this kind without allowing adequate time to discuss these matters.

The noble Lord well knows that when this Bill was originally in another place it was proposed that Report and remaining stages should be taken the day after Committee stage finished. It was only after interventions at the highest level that the Government finally agreed to delay Report and remaining stages until yesterday which allowed the Government to bring it forward for First Reading today and then for Second Reading in the briefest possible time allowed under the usual time limits.

I ask the noble Lord--I apprehend that other noble Lords will also put this question--whether the Government will reconsider the matter and offer the debate for Second Reading some time after Easter.

17 Mar 1999 : Column 728

I stress that if the Government are prepared to do that we shall continue to co-operate as we have co-operated throughout the Session so far.

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page