Previous Section Home Page

Stair Lifts

Sir John Farr : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what is the average delay in assessing a request for the installation of a stair lift (a) nationally, (b) in the Trent region and (c) in the Leicestershire health authority area.

Mr. Mellor : We do not hold this information centrally. Assessments of need for the installation of a stair lift are the responsibility of local authorities who are required under section 4 of the Disabled Persons (Services, Consultation and Representation) Act 1986 to make an assessment when requested to do so by a disabled person or their carer.

Mechanical Equipment (Safety)

Mr. Tom Clarke : To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many anaesthetic machines were recalled during August, September or October 1988 ; by which companies they were manufactured ; and what were the circumstances behind the decision to recall.

Mr. Freeman : None.

Mr. Tom Clarke : To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) on how many occasions in the last five years metal particles or swarf have been discovered in anaesthetic gas systems ; and by which companies the machines were manufactured ;

Column 389

(2) what information he has on the effect the presence in an anaesthetic gas system of metal particles or swarf could have on the machine and the anaesthetised patient.

Mr. Freeman : No such incidents have been reported from the NHS to the Department in the period in question under our defect reporting system. The scale of any problem would depend on the size, shape and distribution of particles within the system, the type of breathing system in use, and the positioning and type of filters within the gas system.

Mr. Tom Clarke : To ask the Secretary of State for Health under what circumstances an order is issued by his Department to recall a piece of medical equipment ; and what criteria are used when deciding whether to issue such an order.

Mr. Freeman : The circumstances under which medical equipment is recalled vary with the type of equipment, the nature of its use and the potential hazard involved. It is recalled primarily where there is an unacceptable risk to the safety of patients or staff.

Mr. Tom Clarke : To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether any faults were found by his Department's inspectors with the quality assurance systems of M. and I. E. Dentsply in 1987 and 1988.

Mr. Freeman : A small number of points were raised as a result of the inspections and were remedied by the company shortly afterwards. The company remains registered under the Department's manufacturer registration scheme.

Mr. Tom Clarke : To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether his Department's guidelines allow the purchase of anaesthetic tables for the National Health Service to contain certain industrial valves which have had to be modified for medical use.

Mr. Freeman : Yes. International standard ISO 5358 is the relevant standard and health authorities purchase to this standard.

Kidney Disease

Mr. John Garrett : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what is the incidence of kidney disease in the Norwich health district and nationally in the most recent year for which statistics are available.

Mr. Freeman : Information on the incidence of disease is not collected centrally. The estimated number of in-patient cases treated in 1985 (the latest year for which statistics are held centrally) are shown.

|c|Estimated number of in-patient 

cases treated with main diagnosis 


|c|kidney disease in NHS          

non-psychiatric hospitals,        

England, 1985|c|                  



Kidney Disease<1>   |35,160       

Cancer of Kidney<2> |5,130        

<1>International Classification   

of Diseases (ICD) Codes.          






<2>ICD Codes.                     



The sample numbers held in the Department's database are too small for reliable estimates to be made for Norwich health district.

Mr. Robin Cook : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will provide a detailed breakdown of his Department's expenditure on the launch of the White Paper, "Working For Patients."

Mr. Kenneth Clarke [holding answer 16 March 1989] : The costs of the launch of the "Working for Patients" White Paper were as follows :



Initial Concept and Designs                      |31,265.30                

Videos                                           |174,615.69               

Teleconference (8 venues)                        |440,235.91               

Roadshows (6 venues)                             |179,227.83               

Communications Packs, 3000                       |302,324.32               

Popular' Leaflet (3 million)-printing and                                  

 distribution                                    |119,817.50               

Management Summary (350,000)-printing and                                  

 distribution                                    |111,830.00               

Invitations, Letterheads, Compliment Slips, 3000 |14,397.35                

Catering, Transport, Crew Expenses, Signs and                              

 Badges                                          |21,757.15                


Total Cost                                       |1,395,471.05             

Operating Department Assistants

Mr. Hoyle : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what proposals the Whitley council is considering in relation to improvements in the pay and conditions of operating department assistants ; what consideration the Bevan committee is giving to recommendations concerning operating department assistants ; and what grade operating department assistants are currently employed on.

Mr. Mellor [holding answer 16 March 1989] : A Department of Health study on staffing and utilisation of operating theatres is being overseen by a steering group chaired by Professor Peter Gilroy Bevan. A final report is due shortly. It is expected that the report will contain some recommendations on the grading and deployment of operating department assistants.

Operating department assistants are employed in 3 grades, trainee, basic and senior. Their pay and grade structures are being examined by a working group of the management side of the professional and technical staff B Whitley council.


Dr. Owen : To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether, in the light of large-scale addiction to benzodiazepines, he proposes to change the present system of regulating the pharmaceutical companies ; and what measures have been taken to ensure that such addictive drugs cannot be introduced in future.

Mr. Mellor [holding answer 16 March 1989] : I have no plans to change the present regulatory system which pharmaceutical companies must follow before a medicinal product can be licensed for sale or supply in the United Kingdom. Benzodiazepines are only available on prescription, and doctors have been issued with guidance on prescribing these drugs in the light of the latest evidence

Column 391

on addiction. When considering whether to advise that a new medicinal product should be licensed on the basis of safety, quality and efficacy, the Committee on Safety of Medicines takes account of all relevant factors including any evidence there may be that the product may be addictive. Its advice would be given only after weighing very carefully the likely benefits of the product against anticipated risks. Where appropriate, suitable advice would be issued to prescribers.

Dr. Owen : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action has been taken or is going to be taken following the chief medical officer's meeting with the leaders of the medical profession to discuss benzodiazepine prescribing.

Mr. Mellor [holding answer 16 March 1989] : A number of useful suggestions were made at the meeting including the development of guidance on good practice which could be used at practice level. A research study has been funded to fill some existing gaps in our knowledge with the aim of giving doctors a practical means to improve their prescribing of benzodiazephines.



Dr. Thomas : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy whether he has received the report, "The Transport of Plutonium by Air and Sea", written by Jonathan Spink and Paul Helliwell for the European Proliferation Information Centre on behalf of the national steering committee of the nuclear free zone authorities ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Michael Spicer : My Department has received a copy of the report. A copy of my Department's reply on the security and proliferation issues raised in the report has been placed in the Library of the House.

Historical Mine Equipment

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy, what steps are being taken to preserve historical mine equipment in particular when a pit is being closed and the site cleared ; and whether he is aware of any records of the original fire engine at Barnburgh pit, Doncaster.

Mr. Michael Spicer : This is a matter for the British Coal Corporation. I have asked the chairman to write to the hon. Member.

CEGB (Capital Investment)

Mr. Blair : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy (1) what is the current rate of return sought by the Central Electricity Generating Board on new capital investment ;

(2) by how much he has increased the rate of return as new capital investment by the Central Electricity Generating Board ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Michael Spicer : The current required rate of return on new investment by nationalised industries is 5 per cent.

Lea Hall

Mr. Heddle : To ask the Secretary of State for Energy if he will discuss with the Central Electricity Generating

Column 392

Board when Lea Hall power station at Rugeley, Staffordshire, will be retrofitted with flue gas desulphurisation equipment.

Mr. Michael Spicer : It is for the Central Electricity Generating Board and its successors to determine the order in which large coal-fired power stations should be retrofitted with flue gas desulphurisation equipment in order to meet their share of the United Kingdom's commitment to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions. The board recently announced the award of a contract to retrofit flue gas desulphurisation equipment to the Drax coal-fired power station.


Veterinary Graduates

Mr. Pike : To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment his Department has made of the likely demand on a national basis, for veterinary graduates in the future ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Donald Thompson : Sir Michael Swann's committee of inquiry into the veterinary profession recommended in 1975 that the manpower needs of the profession should be reviewed by the Government at intervals of approximately five years. The last review, chaired by Lord Stodart of Leaston, recommended in 1985 that the annual intake of students by veterinary schools between 1986 and 1990 should be 302 per annum. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science and I are currently considering whether to carry out another review.

Green Product Labelling

Mr. Bermingham : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations his Department has received concerning the creation of an independent expert investigative body to examine green product labelling ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Ryder [holding answer 16 March 1989] : No representations have been received concerning the creation of an independent body to examine green product labelling.


Household Incomes

Mr. Nigel Griffiths : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will publish a table showing the rise in real household income between 1979 and 1985, broken down by economic type, for all decile groups and the average, in the manner of his answer to the hon. Member for Edinburgh South, 29 July 1988, Official Report, columns 819-20 .

Mr. Peter Lloyd : A table providing this information has been put in the Library. It should, however, be noted that the principal objective of the "Households Below Average Income" statistics is to measure improvements in living standards in different parts of the income distribution for the population as a whole. The tables are not designed to measure the living standards of individuals by economic

Column 393

status within each decile of the population. Although compositional figures by economic status are included in the main "Households Below Average Income" statistics, it should be noted that the information on real income increases by economic status within each decile provided in reply to this question does not provide a meaningful guide to improved living standards.


Mr. Cousins : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security whether, pursuant to the answer given to the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) on 27 October, Official Report, column 337 , he intends to defer any change in hostel dwellers' benefits until after April 1990 ; and when he expects to make an announcement of any new system of benefits.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : I refer the hon. Member to my right hon. Friend's statement to the House on 16 March at columns 546-48.


Mr. Boswell : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the scope of statistics recorded by receptionists at his Department's local offices ; and what details are included.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : Local social security office receptionists keep a simple tally of all callers plus, in the case of some income support and social fund callers, information about identity, residence, and reasons for the call and its outcome. The information about numbers is required for staffing purposes, and about individuals for claim processing purposes. A statistical exercise is conducted for a short period each year to establish caller waiting times. This information is not necessarily recorded by receptionists.

Pensions (Canada)

Mr. Andrew Bowden : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what discussions have been held between his Department and the Canadian Government regarding the uprating of pensions payable to pensioners residing in Canada ; and when the most recent meeting took place.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : The most recent meeting between officials of the Department and Canadian officials to discuss a possible agreement to include the uprating of pensions payable to British pensioners in Canada was in 1983. Further progress has not been possible because of the considerable public expenditure implications--about £48.5 million a year at April 1988 pension rates--of such a change to a policy consistently followed since 1955.

Family Credit

Mr. Thurnham : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what he estimates family credit take-up to have been in 1988 in terms both of expenditure and caseload ; and if he will explain the basis on which those estimates have been calculated.

Mr. Moore : For employees, the estimated family credit expenditure take-up during 1988 was 65 per cent. Take-up by caseload was about 50 per cent.

Figures obtained by modelling 1985 and 1986 family expenditure survey data suggested that caseload take-up

Column 394

was approaching 50 per cent., but we wanted to substantiate this with a direct estimate from up-to-date information. We therefore asked the social survey division of the OPCS to carry out a manual examination of FES returns for the period April to December 1988. Five thousand three hundred and six returns were examined. All family credit recipients were identified. Households with no dependent children or no adult in full-time work were eliminated and those families whose income clearly made them ineligible were also excluded. A detailed calculation of family credit entitlement was carried out for the remainder. The results of this exercise indicate a lower total eligible employee population than the assumption originally made in October 1987, and show that in 1988 it was about 500,000. This compares with an average live load during 1988 (including eligible cases awaiting award) of about 253,000. The basis of this estimate is the same as that which was always used to estimate family income supplement take-up. Families which include someone who is self- employed are also eligible for family credit. During 1988 the average number of such families receiving family credit was about 24,000.

Whilst the sift and calculations were carried out to a very high standard, the results are subject to the uncertainties of small sample sizes. This exercise provides the best and most up-to-date information available, and supports the results we had already obtained from modelling 1985 and 1986 FES data.

These estimates show that during 1988 there were probably still over 250,000 families who were eligible to receive family credit but who did not claim it. This underlines the need for the major advertising campaign which my Department is planning to start in April to ensure that these people who are, or may become, eligible for family credit are made aware of that eligibility and given every opportunity to claim.

Transport Disasters (Social Fund)

Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) whether there have been any demands on the social fund contingency reserves following the series of transport disasters ; and if there is a fixed sum set aside ;

(2) how much has been paid out in social fund crisis loans by the Department of Social Security offices covering the Lockerbie area following the air crash and in Inverness following the recent floods ; and if any other Department of Social Security offices have call on this contingency fund.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : The local office which serves the Lockerbie area is Dumfries. To date no applications to the social fund have been received as a result of the air crash.

The local office at Inverness has received four applications to the social fund in respect of the recent flooding in Inverness. These applications resulted in three awards of community care grants totalling £1,571 and one award of a budgeting loan of £260.52. There were no applications for crisis loans.

A contingency reserve of £2 million is held centrally and is primarily intended to meet additional and unforeseen expenditure arising from disasters and emergencies which individual local offices cannot meet. There are no specific sums set aside within this reserve. To date there have been no applications for additional amounts from the contingency reserve.

Column 395

Pensioners (London)

Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate he has of the additional living costs of pensioners in London.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : I regret that the information requested is not available.

Transitional Protection

Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will give details of how claimants' benefits will be affected by the £2 a week reduction in housing benefit transitional protection in April ; which groups will have their payments reduced ; and in what circumstances the reduction will not apply.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : It has been made clear from the outset that housing benefit transitional payments would be reduced as increases in other benefits make them less necessary. The flat rate deduction of £2 in April 1989 will apply to the majority of recipients, but will ensure that the majority of them gain in cash terms from the uprating. There will be special arrangements to protect the small number of people dependent on social security benefits who would otherwise see a cash loss.

Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how much of the predicted income support increases from October of £95 million in 1989-90 and £195 million in 1990-91 will be offset by savings in expenditure on income support transitional protection.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : I regret that the information is not available. Transitional protection will not be affected when the increases are introduced in October.

Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how much of the allocated funds for transitional protection will be spent in the current year, based on the number of claims received, the proportion of successful claims and the average award ; and if he will give an indication of the expected expenditure on the scheme in 1990 on this basis.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : Of the 445,885 applications for housing benefit transitional payments received at 13 March 185,726 (45.6 per cent. of those assessed) have been successful, 219,314 refused and the average award is currently £3.91 a week. The majority of cases outstanding are because of inquiry forms not having been returned from local authorities. In view of the recent decision to defer the closing date for applications until 30 June 1989 and the number of applications still being received, it is not yet possible to estimate the expenditure in 1988-89 or 1989-90.

Social Fund

Mr. Canavan : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security whether he will list, for each social security office in Scotland, for each month of the current financial year, the number of (a) successful claims and (b) unsuccessful claims for assistance from (i) social fund grants and(ii) social fund loans ; and if he will give a breakdown of the number of unsuccessful claims at each office into categories of reasons for refusal.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : Information about the number of successful and unsuccessful claims and applications is

Column 396

available in the Library. Information about unsuccessful claims and applications broken down into categories of reasons for refusal could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Mr. Canavan : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security whether he will list, for each social security office in Scotland, the amounts allocated for (a) social fund grants and (b) social fund loans for the current financial year and the total amounts spent from (a) and (b) at the end of each month of the current financial year, expressing the latter figures also as percentages of the total allocations for the current financial year.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : Such information is available from the details in the Library.

Housing Benefit

Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security whether, in view of the effect of the Housing Act 1988 on rental levels, he has any plans to impose cash limits on housing benefit payments for 1989- 90.

Mr. Peter Lloyd : We have no such plans. Housing benefit will continue to be available to help those on low incomes with their reasonable housing costs up to market rent levels.

Peto International Institute

Sir Michael McNair-Wilson : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what discussions he has had about providing some financial assistance for the Peto international institute in Budapest ; and whether he has yet made a decision.

Mr. Scott : Ministers received an invitation from the Hungarian Government in December 1988 to participate in developing an international Peto institute. I met a delegation from the Hungarian Government in London on 17 January to discuss the Hungarian plan in greater detail, and ways in which any financial contribution from the United Kingdom could benefit children in this country, both through their use of the international institute, and through continued Hungarian support for related developments in the United Kingdom. These discussions are continuing.

Social Security Reform

Mr. Simon Hughes : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will publish a table of each social security change since the major reform of social security in April 1988 including changes as part of the April 1989 uprating, showing the gainers and losers and the spending and savings as a result of each measure.

Mr. Peter Lloyd [holding answer 16 February 1989] : The majority of the changes made in social security since April 1988 are set out in the amendments to the regulations made under the Social Security Acts. Major changes have been announced in statements to the House by my right hon. Friend. These include the changes to the capital rule and transitional protection on housing benefit, announced on 27 April 1988 at columns 356-61 ; the uprating of social security benefits on 27 October 1988 at columns 455-58, which included details of the additional resources available for low-income families with children

Column 397

from April of this year and the extra help for poorer pensioners announced on 24 November 1988 at columns 241-49.

Other changes have been given in written answers, in particular the reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Thanet, North (Mr. Gale) on 18 July 1988 at columns 487-88, which detailed changes to board and lodging arrangements ; the reply to my hon. Friend, the Member for Lancashire, West (Mr. Hind) on 28 February at columns 161-62 concerning widows' benefits and the reply

Column 398

to my hon. Friend the Member for Broxtowe (Mr. Lester) on 13 March at columns 27-28 which gave details of additional help to vulnerable 16 and 17-year-olds. Precise estimates of the effect of every change in social security since April 1988 are not readily available. Estimates of the numbers affected by individual changes, where available, were included in the announcements. The "Impact of the Reform Structure of Income-Related Benefits" shows the estimated effects on claimants of the changes that took place in April 1988.


  Home Page