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Lord Higgins: My Lords, while I welcome the proposed discussion document, can the noble Baroness say whether it will consider not only the provision of equipment and training but also the provision of suitable notices for anyone who may happen to be on the spot when such an incident occurs?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I shall do my best to ensure that that is included.

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Baroness Gould of Potternewton: My Lords, I declare an interest in Epilepsy Action. Is the Minister aware that the generic first aid courses undertaken by the staff of such stores do not include how to deal with epileptic seizures or diabetic comas? Perhaps it would be helpful if guidance were issued stating that at least one member of staff in such large buildings should have that special training. Does the Minister agree that people who suffer such illnesses should helpfully wear clearly visible Medic Alert bracelets or necklaces so that staff can identify them?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, on the second point, clearly it is not appropriate to have an information leaflet inside one's wallet; it needs to be obviously available to staff so that they know that there is a medical cause for the collapse. On the training in epileptic seizures, the point of the discussion document is that the current first aid provisions are based on regulations drawn up in 1981. At the moment that provides for extensive training initially—four days—which can be costly to small employers, but there is then a problem with skill fade. Issues about how to keep training up to date, whether we can extend it to the use of defibrillators, the use of medicines, Epipens and the like as well as the treatment of epilepsy, are precisely the points that we hope to explore in the discussion document.

Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, would it be a good idea if more first aid training, including training in diabetes and epilepsy, were undertaken in schools and colleges so that a wider proportion of the populace had such expertise? Is it true that often when people pass out, other people believe that they are drunk, leading to someone being placed in an alley?

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I spoke more euphemistically about the matter, but I am sure that your Lordships understood what I was saying. Many schools offer some first aid training, but there are something like 1,500 first aid training providers led by St John Ambulance which trains 500,000 volunteers a year, and the British Red Cross which trains another 200,000 a year. It is found that those who volunteer to undertake first aid training as employees often do so because it is of value to their family circumstances. We need to find the most effective way to keep such skills up to date. That is one reason why we shall be seeking views in the discussion document.

Electricity Transmission

2.58 p.m.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I declare an interest as chairman of Micropower, which promotes the small-scale generation of electricity.

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The Question was as follows:

    To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps are being taken to reduce losses in the transmission of electricity, estimated at 600 million a year.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): My Lords, on 17th January Ofgem announced that it had approved a modification to the Balancing and Settlement Code to implement zonal transmission losses on an average and ex ante basis throughout England and Wales by April 2004. The authority believes that short-term benefits would accrue of approximately 200,000 to 1.5 million on annual transmission losses of 90.8 million, by incentivising companies into making more efficient decisions on the siting of demand and generation in the future. My honourable colleague the Minister for Energy and Construction announced last Thursday that the DTI would be undertaking a consultation on the applicability of zonal transmission losses on a GB basis.

Lord Ezra: My Lords, I am pleased to hear of those initiatives. Is the noble Lord aware that transmission losses at the present level add 12 to the average electricity bill and account for 5 million tonnes of carbon emissions? The Government's target is a reduction in emissions of 30 million tonnes, but those losses contribute substantially to the problem.

Will the noble Lord accept that, in addition to improvements in the distribution networks, more effort should be made to site generating plant near consumers, including siting on consumers' premises, which would eliminate transmission losses?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the question of transmission losses is a difficult one. The figure of 90 million, to which I referred, is the figure for transmission losses on the main transmission system. Obviously, there are additional losses on the local distribution system, but it is difficult to do anything about those by resiting generators.

There are some gains to be made, although they do not look so great, due to the resiting of generators. The figures that I gave—from 200,000 to 1.5 million, with an upside figure of 5 million—are, in one sense, quite large. However, compared to the 60 billion cost of electricity, they are not a major issue.

Although the proposal is of benefit to embedded generators because it saves the transmission, we must also take into account the fact that it could be unfavourable to the location of renewable sources of energy, particularly offshore wind, or the generation of energy in distant places. There are benefits in both directions.

Lord Bridges: My Lords, does not the Minister's reply suggest that the time has come to review the workings of the new electricity trading arrangements, the principal effect of which seems to have been to make previously profitable undertakings unprofitable

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and vice versa? Does the Minister understand that the loss of power to individuals and regions would subject the citizens of this country to serious problems that would be unwelcome to Her Majesty's Government at this time?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, NETA has removed the distortions of the old pool and prices problem. It has led not to chaos but to a fall in prices. That is appropriate in circumstances in which there is too much capacity. We propose to bring in the British electricity trading and transmission arrangements for the whole of GB, and we hope that that will also lead to a fall in prices in Scotland.

Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, are the proposals for reducing expenditure that the Minister has just referred to based on improvements to transformer systems or on more use of overhead lines, although there must be restrictions on the siting of pylons?

Lord Sainsbury of Turville: My Lords, the answer is "Neither". It is a supposition that the generators will either resite the generating plants in due course or will realign them so that there is less loss on existing lines between the point at which the electricity comes on the line and the point at which it goes off to the supplier.

British National Party

3.3 p.m.

Lord Greaves asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What lessons should be learnt from the British National Party victory in Halifax last Thursday.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Filkin): My Lords, the British National Party won the support of only one in 10 eligible voters, and the party holds only five council seats out of around 20,000 in England and Wales. However, the result in Halifax is a matter of concern. Even limited successes for far-Right parties show that we cannot be complacent about community cohesion and race relations in Britain. We must persuade people that solutions do not reside in the dangerous ideas put forward by far-Right groups.

Lord Greaves: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply, particularly the comments at the end. The BNP win in Halifax last Thursday is the latest in a small number of disturbing successes for that fascist party that appear, at least in part, to be the result of the present national climate of completely unjustified fear and hysteria about refugees, whipped up by the tabloid media and fanned by some politicians. Have the Government considered whether some of the provocative, racist lies that have appeared in parts of the press should be referred to the Press Complaints Commission or made the subject of prosecutions for racial incitement? Is the frightening situation helped by some new Labour politicians, who have wrongly referred to schools being "swamped" by asylum

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seekers and now threaten to scrap this country's obligations under international human rights legislation?

Lord Filkin: My Lords, that was a long supplementary question that, step-by-step, turned to other areas. I shall try to respond to some of the issues raised.

The public have the right to make complaints to the Press Complaints Commission, if they think that some media reporting is extreme and offends against the PCC's code. The Times described some recent media coverage as hyperbolic. That is an accurate description of the equation that is made between asylum seekers and terrorists. It is a dangerously overlapped equation. I know that the Commission for Racial Equality is concerned about the situation and is monitoring it.

Oblique reference was made to my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. He has been absolutely right in signalling that, as a nation, we had to make two issues clear: we are committed to providing protection to refugees from oppression and torture, while being realistic, clear and tough in stamping out abuse and making it harder for illegal immigrants to come into the country.

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