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Lord Walton of Detchant: My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, perhaps I may ask an additional question. Does she agree that the National Institute for Clinical Excellence has among its responsibilities a concern with the evaluation not only of drugs and other procedures in the NHS but the evaluation of aids to the disabled and that it is likely that it will continue to evaluate those and to give instructions to health trusts to use the appropriate aids for disabled people?
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Yes, my Lords. That is my understanding. I am grateful to the noble Lord. I shall talk to my noble friend Lord Warner to make sure that any recommendations and good practice are disseminated as widely as possible.
I gently suggest that the amendment in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, would have been highly pertinent two or three years ago. Since then we have had the service regulations in October, only a few months ago, and the Bill's proposals. Together they achieve exactly what the noble Baroness has been calling for at the broader level. Within that, questions about costs and reasonableness have to be left to the local trusts in their wisdom, which most know what the call on their services will be.
If a disabled person suffers a substandard service from a hospital trust there is already a variety of means of redress through the NHS complaints processes and the local trust complaints procedures through to the health service ombudsman. In cases where there has been a breach of duties under the DDA, patients and their supporters and families may pursue the normal enforcement procedures, including seeking advice and assistance from the DRC and the conciliation service and by taking legal action through the courts.
I suggest to your Lordships that the amendment would add nothing to the Bill. The Disability Rights Commissionwhich I am sure all your Lordships would agree speaks for the disability movement overall and has been working closely with the Government on the Billagrees with the Government's reading of their responsibilities under the Bill. It concurs with the Government's view, not that of the noble Baroness, Lady Masham.
We have had a useful debate. I have promised that I will continue with my honourable friend Maria Eagle to take up issues and to press the Department of Health on issues such as standards for clinical excellencewe will do our best. This discussion has been useful and helpful in illuminating these issues in the health service. Given those assurances, I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Masham, will be able to withdraw her amendment.
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Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken and especially those who have supported the spirit of the amendment. Yesterday I read in the Times that there is a huge backlog of many thousands of complaints in the National Health Service and it has had to take on extra staff unexpectedly.
After the Committee stage I wrote to the noble Lord, Lord Warner. That was at least 10 days ago. It shows how slow the Department of Health is to respond, because I have not yet received a reply. I am worried about such an important issue as equipment in the National Health Service being submerged with other public authorities. I am concerned about severely ill people who have an extra problem of an added disability, whatever it may be. The lists of disabilities that I gave concern those who have a problem with mobility; there are so many more.
I do not want the issue to be merged in; it is too important. Eminent doctors who have worked in the National Health Service for years have seen the problems as have I and many of your Lordships. Therefore I should like to test the opinion of the House.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, it is entirely reasonable that the Security Service, the Secret Intelligence Service and the government communications service, that we usually call GCHQ, should be excluded from the definition of "public authorities" for the purpose of the Act. It is also right
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that members of the Armed Forces should be excluded. As the Minister pointed out at Second Reading, the objective of the Armed Forces is to be trained and ready to serve in theatres overseas, whether to fight or peace keep, as we have and are seeing in Iraq at the present time, or to aid civil power in emergency, as is happening in the countries around the Indian Ocean affected by the tsunami.
I put down an identical amendment in Grand Committee to investigate why the Armed Forces should be excluded only when they are temporarily assigned to the Government Communications Headquarters. Although the noble Baroness told us that it was intended that the exemptions referring to national security are designed to ensure that information of a sensitive nature is not disclosed in proceedings under the DDA, this does not answer the point I was trying to make. Members of the Armed Forces should always be excluded from the Act, whatever activity they are engaged in, whether temporarily or not. I hope that they are and that the Minister will point me to an obscure section that says that they are. Assuming that she can, I see no need to have them in new Section 21B(3)(f). I beg to move.
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