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Lord Colwyn: My Lords, does the Minister not agree that any system of medicine that aims to promote general health by reinforcing the body's own healing capacity should be encouraged, researched and funded, and used whenever possible?
Lord Warner: My Lords, we regard issues like these as ones where patients can make many of their own judgments about how to look after themselves, but when they need treatment they go to a doctor, under the NHS, and get advice on the most appropriate therapy required for their condition.
Lord Winston: My Lords, perhaps I may be allowed to break with tradition and come to the assistance of my noble friend. Is it not the case that the national homeopathic hospital conducts perfectly normative medicine and is it not justified in doing that, irrespective of the efficacy or otherwise of homeopathy, which I believe is only a small part of its practice?
Baroness Barker: My Lords, does the Minister agree that it is in the NHS's best interests to keep
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homeopathic practice within its limits, simply to test the interaction between homeopathic and more conventional forms of medicine, especially when one takes into account the number of people who choose to use homeopathic remedies?
Lord Warner: My Lords, I cannot think of any new ways to say, "We leave this to clinicians when they consider the needs of particular patients". However, the House might like to know that the department supports research capacity in complementary and alternative medicine so that we can get a better understanding of the effectiveness of these therapies.
The Countess of Mar: My Lords, is it not the case that science is not a fixed discipline, and that there may be things about homeopathy that we do not understand yet? I remember my consultant telling me one day that he did not understand how paracetamol worked, yet that is prescribed regularly under the National Health Service. If homeopathy does not work, could the Minister explain how my goats think it works?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I offer my noble friend the opportunity to move a little way from the specifics of alternative and complementary medicine to the issue he raised in his Answer about NICE potentially having a role in the assessment of homeopathy. Is he aware that there are grave concerns about NICE in the sense of the length of time that it takes to get assessments of newor existingtreatments? Although the fast-tracked procedure is very welcome, as is the work that NICE has done, can he give us some reassurance about the resources being there for NICE to tackle this even greater range of therapies and treatments that he suggests it might be involved in?
Lord Warner: My Lords, I chose my words with some care and talked about NICE involvement in relation to guidelines for the most part. Those are separate from the technology appraisals that NICE undertakes in relation to particular drug therapies.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): My Lords, detailed negotiations for the sale of Typhoon aircraft to Saudi Arabia are ongoing and commercially sensitive. However, we do not expect the sale of
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Typhoon aircraft to the Royal Saudi Air Force to alter Typhoon's operational employment date with the RAF, which is planned for later this decade.
Lord Garden: My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for that reassurance. After the delays of the entry into service of Eurofighter Typhoon, I am slightly surprised to discover that 48 are in the shed, available for rapid delivery to Saudi Arabia, but let us assume that it is true. What is the Minister going to do about the necessary pilots for training the Saudis? Pilots currently cost £6 million apiece, according to the NAO. Will BAE Systems contribute to the MoD budget to provide more pilots?
Lord Drayson: My Lords, as I said, the details relating to the understanding are commercially sensitive and ongoing. None the less, we plan to have sufficient trained aircrew to support our requirement for 80 fast jets on operations and have the funding to do so.
Lord Chidgey: My Lords, were the Royal Air Force and the Ministry of Defence consulted by the contractor about the implications for the Royal Air Force of the contract before it was agreed? If so, were the concerns raised addressed to the Minister's satisfaction?
Lord Drayson: My Lords, as I am sure the House will appreciate, an agreement of this magnitude is many years in the making and there is still some way to go. Yes, the RAF was fully consulted in the process and I am satisfied. In fact, there are a number of positive advantages to be gained from the increased commitment and the increased numbers of aircraft. We see this very much as a success story. It is positive for British industry. It is positive also for the RAF.
Lord Truscott: My Lords, I declare an interest as an associate fellow of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies. Does my noble friend agree, as he briefly indicated, that the proposed Typhoon order would be a very good deal for British Aerospace and especially for the highly skilled British workers who work in the sector?
Lord Drayson: Yes, my Lords. I am grateful to my noble friend for highlighting that point. I would stress that this is an agreement of understanding on a government-to-government transaction between the Saudi Arabian Government and the United Kingdom. Nevertheless, it has the potential to be positive for the British aerospace industry and to be welcomed.
The Procedure Committee believes that this is an accurate statement of proper practice, and that writing it down will help Members on all sides, including, of course, Ministers. If your Lordships agree, the guidance will take effect immediately.
Lord Campbell-Savours: My Lords, I am sorry to intervene but I think that this is the stage when I can ask the noble Lord a question. Would the added words, which deal with Third Reading amendments, lead to any restriction on the Government being enabled, as provided in paragraph 1,
The Chairman of Committees: My Lords, as the noble Lord pointed out, the current guidance states that amendments at Third Reading enable the Government to fulfil undertakings given at earlier stages of the Bill. That is not altered by anything in the report. The Government can introduce amendments. It is up to the House to decide what is allowed. If it meets with the general approval of the House, there is nothing to stop that happening.
I shall continue with my opening remarks. Secondly, the report accepts a reduction in the committee's size from 29 to 18 members from the next Session. The important preponderance of Back-Benchers will be preserved. I put this proposal forward myself and I am grateful to colleagues for agreeing to it.
Finally, the report recommends that the House should sit at 3 pm rather than 2.30 pm on Wednesdays. This arises from the current experiment with debates on Thursdays. The proposal was put forward by groups in the House which have had difficulty scheduling their weekly meetings since the experiment began. I draw your Lordships' attention to certain features of the proposal. The target rising time would remain 10 pm. The normal sitting time of Grand Committee would be put back from 3.30 pm to 7.30 pm to 3.45 pm to 7.45 pm. If agreed, these changes would take effect next weekthat is, on Wednesday 1 Februaryand run for the rest of this Session. I beg to move.
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