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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, all of the statements that the Chancellor made in yesterday's Budget are confirmed in terms of the small print and the additional statements that are made by the relevant Secretaries of State. It is no different in this case.
Earl Russell: My Lords, I observe that the Minister did not challenge the assertion of the noble Lord, Lord Ashley of Stoke, who said that vulnerability to cold can result from limited mobility, which may be a consequence of age or disability. If she is to dispute the proposal in the Question, does she agree that she must either challenge that assertion or concede that the spending figure for people with disability to which she referred is the result of unmet need? That was discussed by the noble Lord, Lord Morris of Manchester.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, we are talking about fuel poverty. I have tried to suggest to the House that pensioners are poorer than severely disabled people. The degree to which they are in fuel poverty is significantly higher. Half of those who are fuel poor are pensioners. Only 4 per cent of severely disabled people are fuel poor. Pensioners are more likely to be living in houses which are hard to heat.
Perhaps I may respond to the noble Earl by giving him information on which he has pressed me on previous occasions. The extreme consequence of fuel poverty is demonstrated by hypothermia; that is, the number of people who die additionally between the months of December and April compared with the months of August to November. He will know that,
Lord Renton: My Lords, I declare a family interest as I have a very severely disabled daughter who cannot walk. She is in her 40s. She suffers from cold far more than most people over 60; indeed, far more than some people over 90.
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord's daughter is taking full advantage of all the disability living allowances to which she is entitled. Equally, if the noble Lord's daughter were in permanent residential care, she would be in the same position as elderly folk over the age of 60 in permanent residential care who are not eligible for the winter fuel payment in any event because that is already being met through their supported accommodation.
Lord Ezra: My Lords, the noble Baroness has demonstrated that the bulk of people in fuel poverty are aged over 60; nevertheless, there are quite a number below that age and who are severely disabled. As that number can be identified, is it possible for her department to make absolutely sure that those people are specially assisted to receive such benefits as are available?
Baroness Hollis of Heigham: My Lords, yes. We have taken active steps to ensure that people know of their entitlement to the full range of disability benefits. As I am sure the noble Lord will know, the Chancellor has again announced the new figures for the disability income guarantee which will ensure that disabled people will have, in my view, an adequate and decent income on which to live their lives. It is important that those severely disabled people who live in houses which are draughty, cold and poorly insulated know about and take up the grants which are available because fuel poverty results not only from how much heating is needed and how low your income is but also from the state of your housing. The noble Lord's point is relevant and I shall make sure that disabled people are fully aware of those grants and opportunities.
Lord Pearson of Rannoch: My Lords, will the Minister give the House the total extra cost to the Exchequer of the extension of the winter fuel payment to severely disabled people under the age of 60 as requested by her noble friend Lord Ashley? How much money are we talking about?
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): My Lords, we have been notified of 12 schemes which have been established by health action zones and health authorities. Although they are open to women of all ages, experience has been that there are very few requests from under-16s. Supplies can be made to an under-16 within the legal framework established for health professionals in 1986.
Baroness Young: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. What measures are to be taken to monitor the effect of all this, particularly as regards the number of girls under the age of 16 who are likely to receive those particular pills? Will he monitor also the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases as a consequence of the availability of the morning after pill?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, certainly I accept that it is important to monitor the progress of health action zones. I assure the noble Baroness that the issues which she has raised will indeed be monitored. My understanding is that in the Manchester health action zone, the average age of women presenting in the Manchester pharmacy scheme was 24 and only 4 per cent were under the age of 16.
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, the House is always asking the Government to take action. We wish to do everything that we can to reduce the degree of teenage pregnancy, which is very much associated with the question asked by my noble friend. Our national media campaign in relation to sexual health and teenage pregnancy focuses on giving young people,
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, in view of the fact that the morning after pill is available to young people under the age of 16, what protection is there in relation to the culpability of a teacher or a head teacher who refers a girl to a nurse and/or a pharmacy if something goes wrong?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, if the contraceptive was issued under a patient group direction, the professional prescribing that contraceptive would be open to regulation and discipline by his regulatory body. In addition, the medical doctor who was concerned with and signed the patient group direction would himself be accountable if an error were made in that patient group direction.
On the question of the supply of contraception by school nurses, the noble Baroness will recognise that that occurs only after a decision by the governing body of the school after consultation with the parents.
Baroness Massey of Darwen: My Lords, does the Minister agree that there is overwhelming evidence to show that very few girls of 12 are having sex in the first place and that the vast number of women who use emergency contraception are in the age range of 30 to 40? Does he further agree that it is better to use emergency contraception than for a child to have a child?
Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, will the Minister also agree that in the majority of the other health action zones--particularly the one of which I am aware, the Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark health action zone--the figures are very similar to those referred to by the noble Baroness, Lady Massey?
Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, yes; that is why I responded positively to the original Question by the noble Baroness, Lady Young. Clearly, it is extremely important for us to monitor the figures and make them known because that will inform other potential schemes up and down the country.
Baroness Knight of Collingtree: My Lords, will the Minister say what warnings his department issues to reach those very young girls to ensure that they know about the now known danger of starting a sexually active life very early?
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