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  • Jul 8, 2020:
    • Education Settings: Autumn Opening - Statement | Lords debates

      My Lords, a teacher told me yesterday about a boy in her class with ADHD who had been doing very well before the lockdown but is now showing distress and struggling at school. Today several children were very tearful; there will be many children like this across the country. Can the Minister say what training will be given to teachers to identify and deal with these situations and signpost the child to help? As the teacher said to me, sticking them on endless waiting lists for CAMHS is next to useless when they obviously need the help right now.

  • Jul 6, 2020:
    • Medicinal Cannabis - Question | Lords debates

      My Lords, will the Minister accept that the existing protocols and regulatory mechanisms suitable for most pharmaceutical medicines are not capable of handling medical cannabis, which has multiple active ingredients and is therefore not suitable for the usual randomised control trials? Does he therefore agree that a new regulatory system is required for medical cannabis, as there is in many other countries?

  • Jul 2, 2020:
    • Ultra-processed Foods - Question | Lords debates

      My Lords, will the Prime Minister's proposed obesity strategy include the full range of obesity services up to tier 4 in all areas, plus ensuring prevention measures such as calorie labelling, portion size, reformulation and the restriction of price promotions of HFSS foods? Will there be independent evaluation of the measures to be proposed?

  • Jul 1, 2020:
    • Committee on Climate Change: Progress Report - Question | Lords debates

      My Lords, in its Future Support for Low Carbon Heat consultation, BEIS acknowledges the significant role that heat pump technology will play. Why, then, is the support proposed for heat pump technology restricted to 45 kilowatts, and therefore small-scale domestic settings, cutting out even those currently deployed or planned for supermarkets, schools, universities and businesses? If we are to build back greener, is not this technology worthy of support?

  • Jun 22, 2020:
    • Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse - Question | Lords debates

      My Lords, on 10 September 2018, the noble Lord, Lord Agnew, promised, in response to my question about an extra seminar on mandatory reporting, that

      "the Government are committed to ensuring that legislation can adequately deal with this"-[Official Report, 10/9/18; col. 2093.]

      issue, and would scope it fully "during the current Parliament". Has that scoping taken place and, if so, what was the result?

  • Jun 18, 2020:
    • Covid-19: Track and Trace System - Question | Lords debates

      My Lords, can I press the Minister on his answer to the noble Baroness, Lady Young? In the first week of "test and trace", over 8,000 cases were referred, but the ONS said that there were 33,000 cases. If only a quarter of cases are being referred, how does the Minister think that we will ever stamp out this virus? When will we get more widespread asymptomatic testing and tracing?

  • Jun 11, 2020:
    • Covid-19: Recovery Strategies - Motion to Take Note | Lords debates

      My Lords, as we come out of the Covid-19 pandemic, we must find clean technologies that encourage investment, create jobs, provide opportunities and training for young people and address the climate crisis. I recommend one such innovation, which the Government should encourage in every way. As we build new homes, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Risby, that we need to find local ways to heat them that do not use fossil fuels. In County Durham, the council has partnered with the Coal Authority and private developer Tolent Construction to provide district heating for a new garden village from the geothermally heated water that floods a network of disused coal mines in the area. I was very interested when I read about this because I live in north Wales, on top of a lot of disused coal mines, where there is a large development of houses in a village called Llay, which is less than half a mile from the shaft of the tragic Gresford coal mine. However, I do not believe that such an innovative solution to space heating is being used there.

      The system works by pumping the water from the mine-which, year round, is always warmer than the air above-up through a heat exchanger. Warm water is then distributed to the homes and businesses in the new Seaham Garden Village. This renewable energy reduces the heating bills of local families, which contributes to equality, half of them being in affordable homes, provides jobs for the local economy and encourages investment in the area, as well as providing low-carbon space heating. There are hundreds of disused coal mines all over the country, many in disadvantaged areas that need levelling up. Will the Government invest in this innovation elsewhere to leverage private investment and create jobs? It is a nice irony that coal mines, which once contributed to global warming, can provide part of the solution to stopping it.

  • Jun 4, 2020:
    • Child Sex Predators - Question | Lords debates

      My Lords, will the Government provide the 10% of funding for the UK Safer Internet Centre currently provided by the European Union after the end of the transition phase of leaving the EU? Childnet gets 50% of its funding from the EU, so is even more vulnerable.

  • May 18, 2020:
    • Gavi: Covid-19 - Question | Lords debates

      My Lords, health systems in the countries where Gavi operates programmes are very stretched, and routine vaccination programmes are suffering from movement restrictions. What assessment have the Government made of the risk of a re-emergence of the diseases which have been suppressed or even eliminated through Gavi's work?

  • May 14, 2020:
    • Food Supply and Security - Motion to Consider | Lords debates

      My Lords, during the current crisis, people have become very focused on food. Families have been relying on food parcels from voluntary groups and food banks, which are particularly important for people whose children are not receiving free school lunches. They have very little food security, especially if they cannot go shopping because of having a vulnerable person at home. Others are realising that the best way to ensure food security is to grow your own, which also has the advantage of reducing food miles. Of course, this is available only to those with some outdoor space.

      We are very reliant on our farmers and the horticultural industry. Both have been experiencing extreme difficulties during the lockdown. Many horticultural businesses which supply plants for garden centres lost their customers until this week, and their vegetable plants have been left to die. These losses have been disastrous for them. Can the Minister say what proportion of the industry has qualified for help under the Government's business support schemes and who is responsible for ensuring that we still have an industry after the pandemic crisis is over?

      Farmers and salad growers had problems before the current crisis because, since we left the EU, workers from Europe have not been coming here in sufficient numbers to pick, pack and process the crops. No clear commitments have been given to these workers and no trade deals have yet been negotiated, so the security of homegrown fresh food is in a perilous state. Many Brits who volunteered to do the jobs left after a day because they found the work too hard and there is a limit to what can be done through automation, which of course also requires investment. Does the Minister agree that farmers will need a whole season to recover their businesses, so we need to extend the transition phase before they have to face the consequences of its end, and possibly tariffs?

  • May 7, 2020:
  • Apr 30, 2020:
    • Covid-19: Economy - Question | Lords debates

      My Lords, farmers are vital to our food industry but, to make ends meet, many have diversified. This makes access to government support complex and difficult. Many are finding that the money is not reaching them, and they certainly cannot contemplate taking on more debt. This is causing hardship and they risk losing their farms. What can the Government do about this?

  • Apr 28, 2020:
    • Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies - Private Notice Question | Lords debates

      My Lords, the Government have said that they are following the science, but SAGE does not include people from three very relevant sciences: public health, social science and molecular virology. Why not? Does the Prime Minister read the full minutes of SAGE? If not, who briefs him? Is it the Chief Medical Officer or is it Dominic Cummings, whose understanding of the deliberations may be very different?

  • Apr 23, 2020:
    • Covid-19 - Statement | Lords debates

      My Lords, the Secretary of State said that he would mention treatments, but he focused only on vaccinations, which are of course important. However, I would like to ask about progress on developing antiviral drugs and the use of serum treatments, about which I have heard encouraging reports. Can the Minister say whether there are any plans to ask recovered Covid-19 patients to donate blood after a suitable recovery period so that the serum could be used to treat very sick patients and help them recover?

  • Feb 12, 2020:
  • Feb 6, 2020:
    • Employment: Health | Department for Work and Pensions | Written Answers

      To ask Her Majesty's Government what steps they are planning to take to ensure that people with fluctuating and hidden health conditions receive the support they need to (1) find, and (2) stay in, employment.

    • Climate Change - Motion to Take Note | Lords debates

      My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Browne of Ladyton, for securing this important debate. It is very timely because the appalling bush fires in Australia have put the challenge of climate change into sharp focus. However, the Climate Change Act commits us only to "net zero" within the UK territory. That will not do. We need absolute zero and we must count all the emissions for which we are responsible.

      The reason we have reduced emissions by 42% since 1990 is because we have picked the low-hanging fruit by cutting coal-fired generation, driving manufacturing abroad and failing to count the carbon cost of importing goods and food by ship and air, while EU laws on electrical appliance efficiency have reduced UK domestic electricity consumption by around 15% over the past decade. So the second half, or should I say the remaining 85%, of reducing our emissions is going to be much harder and more expensive, and will require radical policies. We must stop burning fossil fuels and focus on harvesting the energy of the sun in all its forms. That will require major changes in infrastructure and behaviour. So please will the Government resist the temptation to put their trust, like the United States, in technologies that have not yet been invented? The scientists in the FIRES report remind us that it can take 30 years to bring new technologies into widespread use. What we need is to lavishly apply existing technology.

      The report claims that to reach absolute zero, we will need to electrify all uses of energy, which is currently feasible except for aircraft and shipping. If we carry on at the current rate of growing non-emitting generation, we could be just about there by 2050, except for the inconvenient fact that by removing the use of fossil fuels, we will have massively increased our demand. So, while we accelerate our production of clean electricity, we will also have to reduce energy demand by about 40%. We will all have to change, so it is important for the Government to ensure that they take the public along. Young people are with us already, but not everyone. The CAB tells us that 38% of people think that they will need to change the way they heat their home, and most would be happy to do it-but they would need financial support. Do the Government plan to expand support for new boilers and home insulation?

      This week, it was announced that all new cars must be electric by 2035. Can the Government explain how they plan massively to increase the number of rapid charging points by then? What are their plans to strengthen the national grid? If we are to use electricity for space heating, the grid will be less stable than the gas grid when there is high demand and could leave essential users without power.

      This is not simple, because all these issues are interdependent. Take, for example, the complexity for the construction industry when building new homes to high energy efficiency standards such as Passivhaus. Building a new house costs about 65 cubic tonnes of CO2. This could come down massively if all the materials were manufactured and transported using green electricity. When you demolish old properties, how much of the material is recycled? Are the Government planning any new regulations about this, especially in the light of the high carbon dioxide cost of making cement, given that we do not yet have a substitute? The Association for Environment Conscious Building has calculated that to deep retrofit all our old draughty homes would take one thousand million cubic tonnes of insulation, plus the new windows and doors, so a massive upsurge in retrofit to save carbon would itself have a carbon footprint, which the association amusingly calls the "carbon burp". It makes it clear that without the decarbonisation of manufacturing and transport, the most ambitious retrofit programme will achieve nothing.

      Perhaps I may now go back to the need to produce more non-emitting energy and ask the Government about their plans, after Brexit, to support the massive increase in renewable energy generation we need. In Bangor University alone, much important work is being done to help us to absolute zero, currently supported by EU and Welsh Government funding. The new Smart Efficient Energy Centre has received £4.6 million from the Welsh European Funding Office. It supports research into the development of tidal and offshore wind energy, while €1.2 million came for work on synthetic landfill microbiomes for enhanced anaerobic digestion to biogas. Research into the production of more efficient solar panels at Swansea and Bangor was funded by EU structural funds. Can the Minister say whether that funding will be replaced by the UK Government as part of the effort to reach absolute zero?

  • Jan 30, 2020:
    • Major Trauma Centre: Westminster - Question | Lords debates

      My Lords, I welcome the Minister's reassurances. Is she aware that in London last year 265 fewer members of the public attempted CPR on people nearby whose hearts had stopped? Does that not suggest that it would be more help to the people who work in and visit this building if we invited St John Ambulance to come to us again to deliver training on CPR and wider first aid interventions?

  • Jan 29, 2020:
    • Social Mobility - Question for Short Debate | Lords debates

      My Lords, many years ago, when I was training to be a teacher, I had to spend a week observing in a primary school even though I was preparing to be a secondary teacher. One particular moment has always remained in my memory. It was in the reception class when the teacher said to me, "When they come to us, some of the children are bright and inquisitive but some of them have a dull look in the eye. They can hardly put a sentence together and lack energy. Some are not even toilet-trained and some are obviously undernourished. What can our school do to make up for all these disadvantages?"

      Today, there is absolutely no excuse for this. We know about the importance of the first thousand days. We know that a child's life course is fundamentally affected by what happens to them in their first three years, and that babies from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to be born with low birthweight, which leads to poor health. We know that the poorest children are 11 months behind when starting school. High-quality early years provision is vital for all children but particularly those whose family is unable to provide the richness of experience that allows the child to develop fully. However, 33% of staff working in early years settings lack either English or maths GCSE, or both, and are unable to provide that high quality. They are not trained to observe children and intervene appropriately to provide personalised development activities. Of course, staff with higher qualifications cost money, but it is money well spent because it produces better results for children and could be a major contributor to their social mobility.

      I support the Sutton Trust's recommendation that priority be given to ensuring that more early years teachers gain qualified teacher status. The Government should also invest in improving qualifications for all practitioners in the sector. It really matters.

  • Jan 28, 2020:
    • Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit - Question for Short Debate | Lords debates

      My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Collins, for securing this important debate this evening. I strongly suspect that there will be considerable agreement with what he just said from across the House. I certainly agree with him.

      Malnutrition is the main driver of illness and poor human potential worldwide and the UK has been a leader in taking action against it. We have to admit that while asking for more, as we always do. Action on nutrition is one of the most cost-effective things we can do to help us achieve the sustainable development goals and to maximise the potential of the global population. Value for money is £16 for every £1 spent on nutrition. As it happens, such action is closely linked to the other global crisis, climate change: improve one and you beneficially affect the other. The scale of the problem is enormous, as we have heard, with over 20% of children stunted and unable to reach their education potential, and very susceptible to illness.

      It is, of course, children who suffer most because of their vulnerability, but it is also girls and women who are particularly susceptible to anaemia and consequently give birth to underweight babies, thereby perpetuating the problem. We have long known that if you support a woman's health, you benefit a family, and this is a cost-effective way of benefiting the economy of fragile countries. However, we must not forget malnutrition in older people who are more likely to lack the finance necessary to feed themselves properly and who often lack influence in their community, so get forgotten. I am told that one in three older people in hospital in this country is malnourished.

      It is tempting to think that malnutrition is something that happens somewhere else and is the responsibility only of the contributions of DfID. However, malnutrition includes undernutrition, shortage of micronutrients and obesity; one in three children globally suffers from one of these three, including here in the UK. Actually, I strongly suspect that it would be a good deal worse if it were not for the existence of food banks, the wonderful school breakfast initiative, the nutrient standards of school meals and the availability of free school meals. I congratulate those local authorities that ensure that children on FSM also get fed during the holidays. Although the main focus of this debate is the Government's pledges at the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth summit, what action are they taking to address child and elder malnutrition, in all its forms, in the UK?

      As we have heard, the current DfID funding for nutrition around the world ends this year. We all hope that the Minister will be able to go a little further when she replies than she did in answer to the Oral Question from the noble Lord, Lord Collins, earlier this month and say whether the Government will up their game a little and pledge £800 million a year for the next five years. Could the Minister also say what analysis has been made of the most effective nutrient-sensitive and nutrient-specific programmes so that we know that the money is being spent on what works best?

      As a fellow of UNICEF, I have always been a great admirer of its child nutrition programmes. Part of that is the programme on breastfeeding which also takes place in the UK as the Baby Friendly Initiative. The wonderful thing about breastfeeding is that it helps to protect the mother from breast cancer as well as nourishing the child at minimal cost and risk. It also provides the child with valuable immunity from common diseases. Exclusive breastfeeding for six months and carrying on until 11 months could prevent over 800,000 child deaths and 20,000 maternal breast cancers. What are the Government doing both here and abroad to promote breastfeeding? To protect poor mothers from spending scarce resources on breast milk substitutes, are we providing education about the benefits of breastfeeding? I echo the plea from the noble Lord, Lord Collins, to make sure that we work with partners to ensure the enforcement of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.

      Talking of working with partners, despite all we do, it is clear that the UK cannot solve malnutrition alone. However, we have already set an example and can do a lot to encourage others. Part of that would be to make the early pledge at the July event in Tokyo that the noble Lord, Lord Collins, asked for and show commitment at the top level by the presence of the Prime Minister.

      What plans do the Government have to match fund or co-finance nutrition initiatives to support nutrition plans in the most fragile countries? Will the Minister commit to programmes which strengthen the resilience of food production in poor countries in the light of the effects of climate change? It is much healthier for populations to eat their own normal, fresh diet rather than have to rely on dried food brought in by aid organisations in response to famine, war or natural disasters.

      Our track record on these matters is something we can be proud of, but there is much more to do. Therefore, we need the Minister's assurance that the UK will continue to make a major contribution to tackling the scandal of child and elder malnutrition across the world and start this new decade with a major announcement in Japan in July.