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Lord Morris of Manchester: My Lords, while I am grateful to my noble friend and, more especially, to John Reid, for the major reversal of policy in setting up a payments scheme, are Ministers aware of the scale of the disaster that has befallen the haemophilia community: that more than 1,000 people with haemophilia have already died from contaminated NHS blood and blood products; that many others are now terminally ill and waiting to die; that the help the scheme proposes is barely one-tenth of what is paid in Ireland; that excluding widows whose lives have been devastated by the disaster, causing them added distress and double despair, is seen as a total disgrace by the Haemophilia Society; that the society insists that there has been no meaningful consultation about these, among other deeply disturbing defects in the scheme, and that such consultation should take place forthwith?
Lord Warner: My Lords, this Question gives me the opportunity to pay tribute to the work done by my noble friend in his tireless efforts on behalf of the Haemophilia Society and the wider haemophilia community to put this item on the agenda. As he rightly says, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State has made a big gesture towards the concerns of that community, which we all recognise, and the hardship that has followed. It is important to distinguish between the scheme and that in Ireland, where public inquiries and criminal charges affected the basis of the scheme.
There has been strong dialogue with the Haemophilia Society. It has been involved in meetings with Ministers and departmental officials. It has a nominated representative to sit on the group of experts advising on the trigger point for the scheme's second
Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, is the Minister aware of emerging research evidence suggesting that a modified preparation of Interferon may prove to be an effective treatment for hepatitis C, with the hope that there may ultimately be a means of eliminating the virus? If that is proven, do the Government want such treatment made available under the NHS? Or will they at least promote research into the use of that preparation in treatment?
Lord Warner: My Lords, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence has published guidance on the use of combination therapy for the treatment of hepatitis C. We have provided additional funding and placed statutory obligations on the NHS to implement NICE's recommendations, so that clinical decisions made by doctors involving NICE-recommended treatment or drugs can be funded. I will look into the further points that the noble Lord made, but that is the current position for therapies in that area.
Lord Addington: My Lords, do the Government accept that we have been hearing Questions on this subject for a long time? The impression that many of us have gained from listening to the Answers is that the Government have moved slowly and only when pushed. They seem to have been hiding behind a curtain of legal restriction, and have not been addressing the point that people have died and are dying through no fault of their own, but through government action. Do the Government accept that, in future, quicker action should be taken and that there should not be this ritual dance around legal niceties?
Lord Warner: My Lords, I do not think that we are engaged in a dance around legal niceties. We have been working with the Haemophilia Society and other interests to produce a workable scheme, which has as its basis an initial payment of £20,000, with a further £25,000 if cirrhosis develops or if a claimant has liver cancer or has had a transplant. We are now trying to ensure that we can bring the scheme into operation as quickly as possiblewherever possible, from April this year.
Lord Warner: My Lords, I tried to cover that point in my first Answer. These payments are not compensation for bereavement, although we recognise the pain and hardship suffered by widows. They are payments to alleviate the suffering of people who are living with inadvertent hepatitis C infection.
Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, the noble Lord mentioned the Macfarlane Trust. Am I right in thinking that that fund covers widows? It certainly does not seem obvious that there should be any difference between the Government's proposals and the Macfarlane Trust scale. Secondly, have the Government compared their proposals with the scale available, for example, in Canada, which is much more generous?
Lord Warner: My Lords, the awards that were made in Ireland and in Canada followed public inquiries or criminal charges which established that wrongful practices were employed. The payment structures of those schemes were therefore based on claims for punitive damages. We do not acknowledge any such wrongdoing in England, so it is not fair to make a comparison between those schemes. The Macfarlane Trust will be involved in the administration of this scheme, but there are significant differences. The Government's policy is as I set out in the Answer to my noble friend.
I would also like to make one point of correction for Hansard. What I said was that I would like the Minister to get us copies of the statement. I did not say that I would like him to get us coffees, which is what it says in Hansard. Although I am sure that the House would love to be able to adjourn on many occasions for coffee, I fear that it may be a precedent that the Minister may not want to set. It was certainly not one that I was aiming for, although a coffee would have been very nice.
I have grouped for today's purposes Amendments Nos. 119F, 119G and 119H. We had an extended discussion on the tariff system and Section 106 at our previous sitting. It might be helpful to today's proceedings if I discuss those amendments.
Clause 47(6) provides, as a possible enforcement mechanism, that conditions can be attached to a planning permission requiring a planning contribution to be made before development has begun. This requirement can be, and often is, imposed in planning obligations. These planning benefits are often provided part-way through developments; for example, affordable housing units cannot be provided on site before the development is well under way.
Many developments, such as housing estates, will take years to build. These are the type of schemes that are likely to require payments to the local authority for off-site improvements, such as improved highway junctions, open space and extensions to local schools. The demand for these improvements is increased as the development proceeds. More classrooms might not be needed when there were 50 houses, but would be needed when 600 had been built. It is common for contributions to be paid over many years, as different stages are reached. On a major housing scheme, the development claims can total over £1 million. Front-loading the contributions would significantly increase financing costs and risks. This amendment would allow contributions to be made at a variety of stages.
Amendment No. 119G prevents a local planning authority retaining indefinitely money received as a planning contribution. It would mean that the Secretary of State could direct in regulation that after a prescribed period any money left over would be repaid with interest if it is not spent on the purposes mentioned in subsection (3)(c).
An important protection for landowners is the ability to apply to discharge or modify planning obligations. An obligation may become out of date. It may prevent development, or restrict the intensity of development beyond what is subsequently desirable. It might frustrate development that the Secretary of State subsequently grants planning permission for. The Section 106 procedure allows for formal applications to be made to the local planning authority, and appeals then to the Secretary of State. Amendment No. 119H allows for appeals. I beg to move.
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