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Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, in answer to my noble friend, I am sure that most of your Lordships would share with me the wish that we should be proud of our embassies and of the jobs that they undertake. There are parts of the world where it is uncomfortable and often dangerous. I should remind the House of the murder of the husband of the late Lady Ewart-Biggs for one; indeed, other Members of the House have also suffered in a like way. Our Foreign Service is the envy of the world.
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, whatever Answers may have been given, expensive or otherwise, to the Written Questions tabled by my noble friend, is there not a serious issue of principle involved? Is not the whole concept of performance related pay for top officials in the public sector utterly absurd? Surely all 11 of the occupants of those top FCO posts should be carefully selected and capable of performing at the highest level on an agreed public sector salary. Does the Minister accept that the notion that they need performance related incentives at that level is thoroughly objectionable? Further, can the Minister indicate how any committee of business menor, indeed, anyone else for that matterwill be able to measure accurately their performance and then link it to pay accordingly?
Baroness Trumpington: My Lords, we believe that, taken together, the factors listed in the terms of reference, including the level of responsibility, performance and experience, will provide the Remuneration Committee with a sound basis for making proposals. I should also point out that the purpose of the committee is for the private sector members to make proposals to the Secretary of State on the pay of individual Grade I ambassadors, save in so far as their pay is determined by the terms of an individual appointment.
Lord Geddes: My Lords, does not my noble friend agree that there seems to be a slight misconception as regards the definition of "business man"? The noble Lord, Lord Kennet, rattled off a large string of other activities. Does not my noble friend agree that all of these are in themselves also businesses and therefore run by business men?
Lord Avebury: My Lords, does not the Minister agree that if these business men apply the same principlesif that is what you call themto the determination of the pay of ambassadors as they do to setting their own remuneration, it is likely to be a rather expensive exercise for the taxpayer?
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, would my noble friend agree that as it is in fact the profitable activity of business and industry which produces the taxes which pay the salaries of all the service sections of our economy, including the Foreign Office, the Government have got it entirely right on this occasion?
Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, will the Minister bear in mind that with the break-up of the Soviet empire there are now a great many more ambassadorial posts in the Diplomatic Service? Is it not very important to look for younger people in the Diplomatic Service with good ideas and enterprise to fill these posts?
Lord Richard: My Lords, I wonder whether the Minister can help us just a little. What on earth is the point of this exercise as regards senior ambassadors? Is it seriously believed by the Government that if one has a performance related exercise our ambassadors will do the job better in future than they have done in the past? Is that not somewhat degrading as regards the Government's opinion of those people?
Lord Kennet: My Lords, does the noble Baroness accept that I may have been in order to put down an Oral Question on the same subject as that on which I have put down numerous Written Questions, first, because I was not satisfied with the Answers to the Written Questions and, secondly, because I thought it would be a good idea for everyone to have an opportunity to comment on this, which they have?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): My Lords, there is no national register of carers providing informal care for relatives and friends. We do not know
Lord Constantine of Stanmore: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Is she aware I am sure she isof the recent BMA report which was published in February of this year which deals with carers? The report claims that 6.8 million unpaid carers are at the present moment saving the Government £33.9 billion.
Lord Tebbit: My Lords, does my noble friend consider that it would be right if the Government had better assessments of the numbers involved and the degree to which they are saving public expenditure? Would it not also be right if something more could be done to support those carers, not least by providing training for carers, whether it is a case of those who wish to be professional carers or those who are caring for relatives within their own families? Nothing else that we do for the disabled in particular is of much use if there is not a carer to help a disabled person get out to take advantage of what is being done for him or her in the community at large.
Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, the Government are considering whether we ought to have a register of informal carers. That is something that is being looked at at the moment. With regard to support for carers, we are publishing today the survey that took place of last year's activities. The number of hours of home help and home care which was provided increased by 24 per cent. The figures suggest a more intensive service in that the proportion of households receiving more than five hours per week has increased, while the proportion of households receiving a single visit or a visit of under two hours has decreased. The provision of meals at home and luncheon clubs has also increased, as have places provided at day centres. All these activities help carers. My noble friend has made a good point on training, and that is certainly something that we shall consider.
Baroness Robson of Kiddington: My Lords, one of the most important things for carers is the availability of respite care so that they can have some time off. To what extent have the possibilities of obtaining respite care increased in the past few years?
Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, our surveys show that local authorities are providing more respite care. That is not surprising because last year we invested £20 million in this particular service, and this year the sum has gone up to £30 million.
Baroness Seear: My Lords, will the noble Baroness tell us what progress has been made in making money available to carers so that they can buy the services they want rather than depending on local authorities to provide them, and in that way obtain more precisely what they individually need?
Baroness Cumberlege: My Lords, direct payments to carers is a subject that has been discussed in a White Paper. It is certainly something that the Government support, and it is a measure that we shall be introducing in due course.
Baroness Jay of Paddington: My Lords, is the Minister aware that I am slightly surprised she has not mentioned the Carers (Recognition and Services), Bill, which was given a Second Reading in your Lordships' House last week? That was a Private Member's Bill introduced in another place by my honourable friend Mr. Malcolm Wicks. I am glad to say that the Government have given a great deal of support to this Labour Party oriented policy.
Lord Lucas: My Lords, we should never be satisfied. Our aim is constantly to improve the quality and relevance of teaching for all pupils in all our schools based on the national curriculum, testing and assessment, Ofsted inspections and the work of the Teacher Training Agency.
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