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Lord Brooke of Alverthorpe: My Lords, is not another major difference between task forces and non-departmental public bodies--quangos--that, in the main, members of quangos are paid, while those who work on task forces give their services free and gratis?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I have tried to address the fundamental difference between NPDBs and task forces. However, I am sure that those who serve on task forces are happy to serve the nation in a free capacity.
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, the Dome is certainly subject to public scrutiny. No task force was set up for the Dome, but the public will come to see it and will form their views as to whether they like it.
Lord Roberts of Conwy: My Lords, will the Minister concede that, at the very least, task forces should be subject to a commissioner for public appointments? Will he also tell the House why the Government rejected the proposition that task forces should be subject to the rules proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Nolan?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, I do not think that that course would be appropriate. One purpose of task forces is to enable a Minister or department to receive appropriate advice on particular issues. If task forces were subject to the kind of procedures referred to by the noble Lord, that would greatly inhibit the
Lord Dixon-Smith: My Lords, the Minister has told the House how many task forces have been created. Furthermore, he has told the House that those jobs should be finite because task forces are established to undertake a particular task. Will he also tell the House how many task forces have ceased to function and are no longer in existence because they have finished their task?
Lord Hayhoe: My Lords, in an earlier reply to a supplementary question the Minister referred to transparency as regards task forces. However, he failed to give an absolute assurance that the reports of task forces will be published. How does he reconcile those two comments?
Lord Falconer of Thoroton: My Lords, very frequently the results of an examination by a task force will be published in effect either by the publication of a report or by publication of the consultation. That means that the wider range of consultation undertaken on behalf of the Minister becomes public.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions: (Lord Whitty): My Lords, Section 37 of the Disability Discrimination Act covers the carriage of guide and hearing dogs in licensed taxis. We have been unable to progress these provisions as quickly as we had hoped. However, we plan to consult on them by March.
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. Why have four years passed while Section 37 still has not been brought into effect by a Minister appointing a date? Is the noble Lord aware that the Disability Discrimination Act was the first on disablement ever to be introduced by a government, all the others having been the product of Private Members' Bills? Furthermore, Part V of the Act was introduced in this House and should already be helping the blind.
Lord Addington: My Lords, does the Minister agree that bringing other private hire vehicles into this process would be much more appropriate? Will the government give an undertaking to make sure that local authorities include the provision when granting any local licence?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, the regulations relating to private hire vehicles other than taxis are not covered by the Disability Discrimination Act. We are currently implementing a system of regulation for London's PHVs covered by the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998. It is clearly for local authorities to make this a condition of their licensing. It would be very much in the interests of blind and other disabled people were that to be the case.
Baroness Masham of Ilton: My Lords, does the Minister agree that guide dogs are so well trained that they are mostly much better behaved than the average person? Will he send a regulation to taxis drivers stating that they should accept these dogs in their cabs?
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I am not entirely sure with whom the noble Baroness shares taxis; however, it is clear that taxi drivers are frequently faced with problems caused by humans and, very rarely, guide dogs. The intention is to begin consultation by March, and then to make the kind of provision referred to by the noble Baroness. It is also important that we protect taxi drivers and other drivers who are subject to a medical condition which might be aggravated by dogs. I refer in particular to asthmatics.
Earl Attlee: My Lords, is the Minister aware that Section 37 runs to only one page of 40 lines? There are no regulations to be drafted, the Act is clear, and there are specific exemptions for medical problems. How many taxi drivers are thought to have dog allergy problems? Surely all that is required is a certificate from a driver's GP stating that the driver has a problem.
Lord Whitty: My Lords, I cannot give an estimate of the number of drivers in that predicament. Nevertheless, we have to take such people into account, as we do in other situations. The noble Earl is correct to say that the provisions on the face of the Bill are clear and explicit, but the regulations covering
Lord Campbell of Croy: My Lords, in the process of consultation are the taxi drivers raising difficulties or objections, even though the Act includes special measures for exemptions in various circumstances and an appeal procedure?
Lord Whitty: No, my Lords, taxi drivers in general are not raising any objection in principle to the provisions of the Act or the regulations. What they are saying is that the exemption has to be clarified and the grounds for appeal must be clear. That will be taken care of in the terms of the consultation to which I have referred.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, the Government are committed to a 10-year programme to modernise the National Health Service so that there is equal access to high standards everywhere and faster and convenient services. Improvements in cancer, coronary heart disease and mental health outcomes are at the top of the Government's agenda.
Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that brief reply. Does he agree that this is a major task, particularly in the field of cancer, when cancer survival rates are currently lower in this country than they are in Poland? Further, does he agree with the warning of Professor Sikora, of Imperial College, that, without more money, cancer services in Britain will continue to lag behind those of our European neighbours in terms of survival rates? Further, does he agree with the professor in his highlighting of a shortage of 500 cancer specialists, a backlog of some £1.2 billion in radiotherapy equipment, and the need for £170 million a year more for chemotherapy? Will Professor Richards' strategy for cancer services address those points?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I am grateful for that long question. The Government are very concerned to sort out the issues that have been mentioned in relation to cancer services and, specifically, the variations in quality and the
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