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Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the £3 per week taken from income-related benefits is a very reasonable amount. One can look at the circumstances and that could be adjusted if necessary. As regards getting back payments and loans, I was very concerned at the thought of using debt collection agencies; indeed, I

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was grateful for the question that was raised. There are very clear rules for the use of debt collection agencies. I am convinced that, when necessary, we can remove the need to pay back for a period, as long as the loan is repaid within five years.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, could the Minister tell us what advertising is done regarding these grants or loans? There seems to be pretty poor take-up so far. How are they advertised to refugees and people who are entitled to stay here? Is that done by the DWP, or is it done more generally?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, the noble Baroness raises a very good point. I do not know the exact details, but we have a very good system for helping people integrate into society. They are taken care of by around 300 caseworkers, who look after cases around the country. I am sure that they would give them the details, but I do not know the precise answer, so I will have to come back to the noble Baroness on this in writing, if I may.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I am informed—and I ask the noble Lord if this is correct—that people applying for asylum are told about this scheme. If that is so, for how long after that do they have the right to apply for a loan?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I am glad to hear that they are told about the scheme as they apply for asylum. This partly answers the previous question, although I will still write in answer. Exactly how long they have thereafter to make the claim, I do not know. I will get back to the noble Baroness in writing on that, if I may.

Lord Roberts of Llandudno: My Lords, with reference to debt collection agencies, could the noble Lord tell us what it would cost, per person, to collect a loan of £1,000 that had not been repaid?

Lord West of Spithead: My Lords, I am afraid that I do not have those facts at my fingertips. I know that the DWP uses the four debt collection agencies that it uses more widely in recovering debts. If I can get that answer from the department, I may come back to the noble Lord in writing on the details.

Government: Departmental Funding

2.59 pm

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in my name on the Order Paper. In doing so—

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords—

The Lord President of the Council (Baroness Ashton of Upholland): My Lords, I think we missed the second part of what the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, was saying.

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Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I declare an interest as a member of the all-party group on defence.

The Question was as follows:

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I apologise; I was clearly eager to respond positively to the noble Lord. The 2007 Comprehensive Spending Review set out the Government’s priorities and spending plans for the years to 2010-11. These plans are fixed and will not be reopened. Planned spending on defence will rise from £32.6 billion in 2007-08 to a total budget of £36.9 billion by 2010-11, demonstrating the Government’s continued commitment to the Armed Forces. The budget of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will rise also, from £1.6 billion to £1.7 billion in the same period.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his response and respectfully ask if he is aware that this does not address the concerns of Sir Richard Mottram, the former Permanent Secretary at the MoD, chairman of the Intelligence and Security Committee and co-ordinator of government intelligence and security? The Times reported on 30 December that he said in his Demos lecture that DfID expenditure should be used to its “maximum effect” on defence and counterterrorism.

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, the Government agree that expenditure must be used to its maximum effect; that is why this defence expenditure provides two new aircraft carriers for the Navy, protected vehicles for the Army and additional air transport capability for the Royal Air Force—as well as, within the Foreign Office budget, increasing expenditure that will help in broader counterterrorism activities. These points were, of course, debated and taken into account before the spending plans were decided upon last year.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock: My Lords, would my noble friend confirm that the second largest percentage increase in budget after DfID went to the intelligence services, which lead the fight against terrorism? Will he also confirm that DfID’s work to eliminate poverty around the world helps to reduce the likelihood of conflict and terrorism?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, of course my noble friend, with his vast knowledge of these matters, is absolutely right that we have made provision in the budget for the reduction of poverty, which is an important part of the general battle against terrorism. As he indicated also, there is a substantial increase in the single security and intelligence budget, which will rise to some £3.5 billion by 2011—more than three times what we spent on these matters before 9/11. The Government are giving proper priority to this important work.

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Baroness Noakes: My Lords, can the Minister explain why the Government have let defence spending fall to its lowest level since 1930, as a percentage of GDP?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I do not think that defence spending has fallen below that of 1930; it is massively above the spending of the Conservative Government’s last decade in power—the late 1980s and early 1990s. The simple fact is that defence expenditure is falling, if the noble Baroness meant in relation to the rise in GDP, first, because the rise in GDP is proceeding significantly, and secondly, our percentage drop against GDP is in line with all other advanced countries, including the United States of America.

Lord Blaker: My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary said two weeks ago that one-third of our diplomats in Europe are to be moved to the Middle East and Asia? While there may be a need for more in the Middle East and Asia, given the troubles there, is it not doubtful wisdom to reduce our diplomats in Europe by one-third?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, as I indicated in my Answer, there is increased expenditure on the Foreign Office’s budget, but its priorities change significantly from time to time and the noble Lord will recognise that there is an immense need to increase our capacity, ability and representation in the Middle East in areas where we are all too well aware that real difficulties manifest themselves. He will, no doubt, have heard this morning the extremely able way in which our ambassador to Afghanistan responded to the issues confronting the Government there, reflecting the enhanced status of his role in the country—a properly enhanced status, given the significance of Afghanistan to world security.

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords—

Lord Grocott: My Lords—

Lord Campbell of Alloway: My Lords, can the noble Lord assure us that adequate provision of resources for our Armed Forces, for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in this respect, and for counterterrorism will remain a priority over other expenditures?

Lord Davies of Oldham: My Lords, I apologise on behalf of my noble friend the Chief Whip for intervening on the noble Lord, Lord Campbell of Alloway, for the second time today between the two of us.

The noble Lord is right: defence expenditure is bound to be a very high priority. He will appreciate that we need to guarantee the security of our country in troubled times. He will also recognise that we have provided in the budget additional resources for the period up to 2010-11.

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3.06 pm

Lord Grocott: My Lords, at a convenient time after 6.45 pm, my noble friend Lord Davies of Oldham will repeat a Statement made in another place on Northern Rock.

In response to observations that we have had from all sides of the House about the normal conventions of debate at different stages of Bills, I remind the House that, when we come to debate the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, the advisory rules for debate from the Companion state that,

House of Lords (Amendment) Bill [HL]

Lord Avebury: My Lords, I beg to introduce a Bill to amend the House of Lords Act 1999. I beg to move that this Bill be now read a first time.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Bill read a first time, and ordered to be printed.

Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill [HL]

3.07 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Darzi of Denham): My Lords, I beg to move that the Bill be now further considered on Report.

Moved accordingly, and, on Question, Motion agreed to.

Schedule 2 [Activities that may be licensed under the 1990 Act]:

Lord Lloyd of Berwick moved Amendment No. 30:

The noble and learned Lord said: My Lords, I have had a message from my noble friend Lady Finlay, who has put her name to this amendment. She says that her train from Cardiff this morning was unfortunately cancelled. She is travelling up by taxi which, apparently, can go almost as fast as the train, and hopes to be here before the end of the debate.

When we were debating saviour siblings in Committee, there were two main concerns about the drafting. The first was the inclusion of the words “other tissue” in paragraph 3 of Schedule 2, which seemed to be far too wide. That concern has now been met by the Government in the next amendment, so I will say no more about that.

The second cause for concern was the word “serious” in the context of “serious medical condition”. The reference is to page 55, line 30. I prefer the term “life-threatening” which is, as I understand it, the current test. To my mind, “life-threatening” is better because it indicates, with some precision, the right degree of seriousness—neither too broad nor, as I hope to suggest, too restrictive.

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The trouble with the word “serious” on its own is that it is much too vague and imprecise. For example, one meaning given in the Oxford English Dictionary is: giving cause for anxiety; not light or superficial. I do not suppose that anyone in the House would argue that a condition which gives cause for anxiety is a sufficient ground for creating and testing embryos. Clarity and precision, if one can achieve them, are always important in legislation but never more so than when one is dealing with matters as sensitive as human embryology—a point made very well this time last week by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury.

I am of course aware that the Joint Committee recommended a change from the term “life-threatening” to “serious” and it did so on the basis of the evidence of two experts, as was made clear in Committee by the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin of Roding. The view of the Joint Committee is obviously entitled to great weight but I suggest that it should not be regarded as conclusive. Indeed, the noble Lord, Lord Jenkin, himself acknowledged that when he said—he will forgive me for quoting:

In this House, we have had the huge advantage of hearing from two other great experts—notably, my noble friend Lord Walton of Detchant and the noble Lord, Lord Winston. My noble friend Lord Walton said that he preferred the term “life-threatening” to “serious”,

The noble Lord, Lord Winston, agreed with that. He said that he preferred the term “life-threatening” because “serious” is,

Not surprisingly, I agree with both noble Lords. I hope only that they have not changed their minds, and I do not see that they have. Their expertise in this field is of course beyond all question, but I suggest with humility in passing that, if they had not become doctors, they would almost certainly have made very good lawyers.

At the end of the debate in Committee, the noble Baroness, Lady Royall, seemed to be receptive to the argument that “serious” was too wide a term and she said that she intended to come back at or before Report. I hope that she, too, has not changed her mind and that she is equally receptive today.

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, challenged me to think of something better than the word “serious”. That was a challenge which, coming from that source, I could not have declined. The clue, I suggest, is to be

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found in something said by the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge. She said that a serious condition in this context meant, or should mean,

That, it seems to me, hits the nail on the head and is exactly what we have tried to encapsulate in our amendment by adding the words “potentially life-threatening”.

3.15 pm

I do not know whether it is in order to anticipate the amendment in the name of the noble Earl, Lord Howe, as the two amendments are not grouped together. In his original amendment, the noble Earl proposed a definition of “serious” as likely to shorten life or significantly impair quality of life. I had no quarrel with the first part of that definition—“likely to shorten life” seems to me to mean much the same as life-threatening. However, I had difficulty with the second half of the definition because “significantly” is no better a word than “serious”. Indeed, I believe that it is less precise; we get no further by defining one word in terms of the other.

The revised amendment of the noble Earl includes “life-threatening”, which is fine, but it goes on to add a reference to the “quality of life”. The word, “severely” in his revised amendment is better than “significantly” in that context, but I am still concerned about “quality of life”. Of course I understand and sympathise with the motive behind that part of the definition, but once we start talking about the quality of life, we are entering a very subjective area which is better avoided. I invite your Lordships to stick with “potentially life-threatening”, which can be added easily to “serious”. Surely that will give the scientists enough scope for their important research, for the time being at any rate. I hope that we might all come together on the amendment. I beg to move.

Baroness O'Cathain: My Lords, I have added my signature to Amendment No. 30, which stands in the names of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick and the noble Baroness, Lady Finlay of Llandaff.

Last week, I moved an amendment expressing my opposition in principle to what are called “saviour siblings”. The majority of noble Lords disagreed, and of course I accept the decision of the House. However, in the debate, even supporters of the practice expressed strong reservations. In view of the fact that the Government are determined to press ahead with what many think are excessively broad parameters, it is surely right for Parliament to set more reasonable limits on procedure.

There was much debate in Committee about the sorts of illnesses for which tissue-typing could be licensed. The term “serious medical condition” is, as the noble and learned Lord, Lord Lloyd of Berwick, said simply too broad and vague to be a sufficient safeguard in this highly controversial area. No doubt some would say that the regulator—the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority—will reject spurious applications for a licence, but that is putting

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yet another onus on the HFEA. If it is to be done, it should be reflected in the Bill itself. Amendment No. 30 does that by requiring the existence of “serious and potentially life-threatening” medical conditions.

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