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Mr. David Hunt : In order to provide further information on individuals' rights and duties under the community charge, my right hon. Friend has decided to make additional resources available to ensure that those who are eligible for community charge rebates and transitional relief are aware of their entitlement.
Mr. Freeman : Dietary supplements containing germanium have been sold in health stores, pharmacies and by mail order. Product literature and articles sponsored by manufacturers claimed or implied potential health benefits, including an improved immune response. However, the Department of Health has no evidence that germanium is beneficial to health, and a report from Japan suggests that, taken as a dietary supplement, it may actually be harmful. The Department of Health has therefore advised that sales and consumption of dietary supplements containing germanium should cease.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : I have approved 35 new posts for the first year of the scheme in 1989-90. Officials have today written to health authorities advising them of successful bids for posts in their area. The new posts we have created are over and above existing plans for new consultants. They are targeted on districts and specialties where there are long waiting times for treatment. They will enable many extra cases to be treated from waiting lists and will make a significant impact on the increasing demand which leads to long waits.
We will meet the full costs of the new posts up to a maximum of £500,000, which will cover the cost of the new consultants, plus additional staff and running costs, and essential equipment in support of the posts.
The annual running cost of posts approved in the first year of the scheme averages £360,000 with an additional average cost of £40,000 to cover one-off capital expenditure. The new posts are in general surgery (10 posts) ; trauma and orthopaedics (7 posts) ; obstetrics and gynaecology (5) ; ophthalmology (5) ; urology (3) ; ear nose and throat surgery (2) ; and (one post each in) medicine, oral surgery and plastic surgery. These new posts will be supported by additional medical and non-medical staff. A total of 13.5 whole-time equivalent consultants in anaesthetics ; a small number of extra consultant sessions in radiology, audiology and histopathology ; 16 whole-time equivalent junior medical staff ; 377 nurses ; 68 professional and technical staff and 113 other non-medical staff will be provided as a result of the scheme in its first year. We are seeking further information from health authorities on a number of the other bids, and I expect to announce the allocation of the remaining 65 new posts early next year.
Mr. Vaz : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what response he has received from the Royal College of Psychiatrists on the National Health Service White Paper "Working for Patients" ; and if he will make a statement.
Column 125aims for the Health Service. It raises a number of concerns regarding the implication of our proposed reforms for mental health services. Many of these concerns will be addressed in the White Paper on the future development of community care which we hope to publish very shortly.
Mr. Pawsey : To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what percentage of letters from hon. Members to his Department received a reply (a) in under four weeks, (b) within four to six weeks, (c) within six to eight weeks and (d) over eight weeks, in each of the last three years ;
(2) what information his Department has on the length of time taken to respond to letters from hon. Members.
Mr. Freeman : Information is not available on the time taken to reply to correspondence before November 1988. Since then 51 per cent. of letters from hon. and right hon. Members have received a reply within four weeks. I regret that information on delays in replying beyond four weeks is not available in the detail requested. Following a very large increase in the amount of correspondence received earlier this year the Department has taken steps to improve the speed of reply.
Mr. Hannam : To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether all regional health authorities have submitted to his Department their detailed proposals for the integration of the wheelchair and artificial limb services in 1991 ; how far advanced the preparations for the integration are ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Freeman : Proposals for the integration of the Disablement Services Authority's services have now been received from all regional health authorities. We shall be assessing the progress made with preparations for integration at the Disablement Services Authority's annual review meeting on 9 November.
Mr. Freeman : During the last 12 months we have received six letters from hon. Members and four letters from members of the public about free prescriptions for students. We have also had a small number of representations about free dental treatment for students. Students up to the age of 18 are entitled to free prescriptions and free dental treatment. Students aged 19 and over can apply for help under the NHS low income scheme. We believe it is right that students of that age who can afford to pay for their prescriptions and dental treatment should do so.
Mr. Skinner : To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many babies born in England and Wales, in 1987 and 1988 at 25, 26 or 27 weeks gestation who have been handicapped from oxygen starvation or other causes will need special care for the rest of their lives ; and what is the estimated cost to the National Health Service of this special care over the estimated lifetime of these children ; (2) how many babies were born in England and Wales, in 1987 and 1988 at 25, 26, and 27 weeks gestation and survived one year.
Mr. Ward : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will respond to the statement made by the Pharmaceutical Society setting out its concerns about the quantity of tranquillisers still being prescribed.
Mr. Freeman : I welcome the concern shown by the Royal Phamaceutical Society of Great Britain about the need to avoid incorrect prescribing of benzodiazepines. As its statement makes clear, the Committee on Safety of Medicines has already given guidelines on the use of benzodiazepines.
Mr. Andrew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many breaches of the voluntary agreement on tobacco advertising between his Department and the tobacco industry there have been in the past 12 months.
Mr. Freeman : During the past 12 months, the committee for monitoring agreements on tobacco advertising and sponsorship has recorded nine instances in which the voluntary agreements that it monitors were breached. The agreements monitored by the committee are the 1987 agreement on the sponsorship of sport, and the 1986 agreement on tobacco products advertising and promotion, and health warnings. On one of these occasions-- a televised sporting event--a number of breaches of the same agreement occurred. In addition to this, the committee referred one complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority, which decided that it was in breach of the cigarette code.
Mr. Andrew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the members of the Department of Health and Tobacco Industry Committee monitoring the voluntary agreement on tobacco advertising and their occupations ; and whether he has any plans to reconstitute the committee to include fewer representatives from the tobacco industry.
Mr. Freeman : The committee for monitoring agreements on tobacco advertising and sponsorship was set up as part of the 1986 voluntary agreement on tobacco products advertising and promotion, and health warnings,
Column 127and the terms of that agreement stated that the Committee should have equal representation from interested Government departments and from the tobacco industry. The Government cannot decide unilaterally to reconstitute the committee ; this would have to be discussed with and agreed by the tobacco industry. The independent chairman of the committee is Sir Peter Lazarus. The Government members are Mr. T. S. Heppell, Mr. N. M. Hale and Mr. W. Burroughs, all from the Department of Health, Mr. A. King, Scottish Office, Mr. D. MacDonald, Department of the Environment, Mr. D. Adams, Welsh Office and Mr. J. Scott, from the Department of Health and Social Security (Northern Ireland). The industry members are Mr. W. C. Owen and Mr. D. R. Hare from the Tobacco Advisory Council, Dr. R. R. Boxall, Gallaher Limited, Mr. Haynes, Imperial Tobacco Company, Mr. E. D. Oxberry, Rothmans (UK) Limited, and Mr. B. C. W. Heard from the Imported Tobacco Products Advisory Council. The seventh industry member has just resigned from the committee and has not yet been replaced.
Mr. Freeman : The tobacco industry has undertaken to honour the current agreement and its operation is monitored by the independent committee for monitoring agreements on tobacco advertising and sponsorship (COMATAS). The chairman of COMATAS, Sir Peter Lazarus, concluded in the second annual report of the committee, published in April this year, that the industry tries hard to keep to the agreement.
The Rev. Martin Smyth : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will publish the grades of speech therapists in England, Wales and Scotland following the regrading under HSS(TC7)3188 broken down by area board, showing the percentage in each grade before regrading and the percentage after.
Mrs. Virginia Bottomley [Pursuant to the reply, 6 July 1989, cols. 238-40] : My hon. and learned Friend gave information for the "percentage of speech therapists in each grade in England at 30 September 1989". This was incorrect and should have read, "We do not have the information in the form requested, but the tables show the percentage of speech therapists in each grade in regional health authorities in England on the dates shown."
Percentage speech therapy staff by grade as at 30 September 1987 Regional Health Authority |Snr II |Snr I |Ch IV |Ch III |Dist II |Ch Dist I |Ch Dist Snr chief ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Northern |39.43 |40.89 |3.99 |6.33 |8.73 |0.00 |0.63 Yorkshire |35.69 |49.78 |1.12 |3.60 |6.08 |2.48 |1.24 Trent |47.94 |32.38 |4.55 |10.37 |2.38 |0.40 |1.98 East Anglian |47.05 |36.27 |2.22 |7.87 |5.73 |0.86 |0.00 North West Thames |40.70 |41.08 |4.40 |8.67 |3.75 |0.47 |0.94 North East Thames |36.13 |39.18 |3.18 |15.59 |4.66 |0.85 |0.42 South East Thames |39.38 |39.94 |3.60 |10.62 |5.08 |0.92 |0.46 South West Thames |28.83 |51.20 |0.42 |13.82 |5.14 |0.60 |0.00 Wessex |46.47 |27.99 |4.90 |13.21 |4.45 |2.97 |0.00 Oxford |31.87 |44.40 |3.48 |15.38 |2.09 |2.78 |0.00 South Western |34.47 |49.26 |2.75 |8.03 |2.20 |2.20 |1.10 West Midlands |45.07 |36.03 |6.17 |6.05 |5.11 |0.79 |0.79 Mersey |41.53 |34.48 |0.88 |13.58 |6.88 |2.65 |0.00 North Western |44.98 |37.75 |4.05 |6.76 |5.60 |0.43 |0.43
Percentage speech therapy staff by grade as at 30 September 1988 Regional Health Authority |Grade A |Grade B |Grade C |Grade D |Grade E -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Northern |13.37 |47.96 |25.13 |11.17 |2.38 Yorkshire |7.11 |49.83 |33.68 |5.98 |3.40 Trent |10.72 |56.83 |26.79 |2.38 |3.28 East Anglian |9.40 |59.77 |21.78 |6.49 |2.56 North West Thames<1> |10.93 |63.80 |16.37 |5.32 |3.58 North East Thames |12.55 |32.01 |36.06 |14.67 |4.72 South East Thames |15.03 |52.02 |22.14 |8.43 |2.38 South West Thames |10.28 |54.30 |27.56 |5.24 |2.62 Wessex |5.23 |61.72 |24.10 |5.23 |3.73 Oxford |6.85 |53.45 |28.51 |7.19 |3.99 South Western<2> |- |- |- |- |- West Midlands |10.59 |59.21 |20.43 |7.58 |2.20 Mersey |13.30 |48.23 |29.79 |6.03 |2.66 North Western |14.81 |39.98 |36.60 |4.30 |4.30 <1> North Western figures as at 31 March 1989. <2> South Western figures not available in comparable form.
Dr. Thomas : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on his Department's role in the radioactivity research and environmental monitoring committee since its inception.
Mr. Maclean : The function of the radioactivity research and environmental monitoring committee (RADREM) is to review research and monitoring requirements and activities relating to radioactive waste management. In addition to contributing to the joint scientific secretariat for this committee, my Department has been represented on and played a full and active part in the work of the committee since its inception in 1986. Officials in my Department also chair two RADREM sub-committees, set up in 1988, dealing with research on radioactivity in the terrestrial environment and the aquatic environment respectively.
Mr. Pawsey : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what percentage of letters from hon. Members to his Department received a reply (a) in under four weeks, (b) within four to six weeks, (c) within six to eight weeks and (d) over eight weeks, in each of the last three years.
Mr. Maclean : The information is not readily available in the form requested. However, in the financial year 1988-89, a total of 88 per cent. of letters receiving a ministerial reply, including those from hon. Members, were answered within three weeks.
Dr. Thomas : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make it his policy to seek information from the Ukrainian and Byelorussian agriculture departments on the emergence of unpredicted mutations in vegetations in pine, oak and acacia trees, and in rodents and waterfowl in areas contaminated by radioactive fallout from Chernobyl.
Mr. Maclean : Scientists from my own and other Departments keep fully abreast of scientific developments through contact with their Soviet counterparts and others in various international fora. Migratory waterfowl that might have been in the vicinity of Chernobyl at the time of the accident were examined as part of my Department's extensive post-Chernobyl monitoring programme to ensure the safety of United Kingdom food supplies. The wider environmental implications of the accident are the concern of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment.
Mr. Steel : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if the Government proposes to revise the set-aside scheme so as to accommodate fibre-producing animals such as cashmere and angora goats.
Column 130introduce grazed fallow because of problems of control and possible adverse effects upon existing livestock producers, particularly in the hills. The Community rules do not permit restriction of the option to particular types of animals such as fibre-producing goats.
Mr. Dewar : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what estimate he can make of the total cost of the inquiry into the Piper Alpha disaster chaired by Ford Cullen ; and what will be the costs met by the Scottish Office.
Mr. Rikind : The public inquiry into the Piper Alpha disaster was established by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Energy, whose Department spent £1.05 million in 1988-89 on setting up and running the inquiry. In 1989-90 the best estimate of the costs of the inquiry is £2.7 million, although the precise figure will depend on how long it lasts. It is not yet possible to estimate any further costs which may be involved in the completion of the report. The only costs being met by my Department are those associated with providing legal advice and counsel to the Department of Energy. In 1988-89 these amounted to approximately £0.1 million and the best estimate for 1989-90 is £0.3 million.
Mr. Lang : The Secretary of State has received a wide range of representations about the future of Gaelic broadcasting. All call for a substantial increase in Gaelic television programming, although many differ as to how this might be best achieved. The Government are currently considering the future of Gaelic broadcasting and an announcement of their conclusion will be made shortly.
Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on his Department's role in the radioactivity research and environment monitoring committee since its inception.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : The Scottish Office has been represented on the radioactivity research and environmental monitoring committee since it was established in 1986 and has taken a full part in the committee's work. This has included reviewing and collating the programmes of research and monitoring undertaken both by Government and industry. It has ensured that appropriate work is in hand to cover both the United Kingdom and Scottish interests.
Column 131and other purchasers of health services. Their ability to win contracts will depend on the quality of the services they are able to provide and the prices they wish to charge.
Mr. Kirkwood : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will accord self-governing status to hospitals or other medical units other than major acute hospitals as part of the two hospitals he envisages awarding such status.
As a result of reduced requirements the cash limit for class XVI, vote 3-- regional and general industrial support--has been decreased by £4,000,000 from £148,249,000 to £144,249,000. This reduction will partially offset increases in other votes.
Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary supplementary estimate, the cash limit for class XVI, vote 6--roads, transport and environmental services--will be increased by £1,881,000 from £211,061, 000 to £212,942,000 reflecting the take-up of entitlement to carry forward underspends in 1988-89 under the end year flexibility arrangements as announced by the Chief Secretary to the Treasury on 20 July 1989. The full entitlement of £1,673,000 on capital expenditure and £208,000 in respect of running costs for historic buildings and monuments are taken up.
The cash limit on class XVI, vote 14--prisons, hospitals and community health services, etc.--is being reduced by £4,630,000 from £2,003,389,000 to £1,998,759,000. The supplementary estimate includes take-up of the entitlement to carry forward £388,000 under the end year flexibility scheme for running costs.
There is a new cash-limited vote, class XVI, vote 27--hospital and community health services--covering from 1 January 1990 the hospital and community health services formerly carried on vote 14. The cash limit has been set at £8,697,000, reflecting gross expenditure of £542,199,000 and appropriations in aid of £533,502, 000. This comprises transfers from vote 14 for the final quarter of the financial year, together with additional resources, originally agreed for vote 14, of £4,747,000 on capital expenditure for the take-up of the full entitlement to carry forward underspending in 1988-89 under the end year flexibility scheme and £3,950,000 for NHS review implementation costs, partly offset by savings of £200,000 on class XVI, vote 14.
Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary supplementary estimate, the cash limit for class XVI, vote
Column 13215--education, arts, libraries and social work--will be increased by £162,000 from £215,649,000 to £215,811,000 to take account of the changes in payment of income support for hostel dwellers. Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary supplementary estimate, the cash limit for class XVI, vote 19-- General Register Office for Scotland--will be increased by £50,000 from £5,318,000 to £5,368,000 reflecting the take-up of the full entitlement to carry forward underspends in 1988-89 under the end year flexibility scheme for running costs. In addition, the running costs limits for the General Register Office for Scotland will be increased by £50,000 from £5,815,000 to £5,865,000.
Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary supplementary estimate, the cash limit for class XVI, vote 21--Scottish Office administration--will be increased by £1,014,000 from £120,358,000 to £121,372,000. The increase includes take-up under the end year flexibility scheme for running costs of £379,000 and legal expenses of other departments for which legal advice is provided. As a result of these changes and the full take-up of carry forward under the end year flexibility scheme by historic buildings and monuments within class XVI, vote 6 and by prisons within class XVI, vote 14, the running costs limit for the Scottish Office will be increased by £1, 057,000 from £205,865,000 to £206,922,000.
Cash block SO/LA1, which covers non-housing capital expenditure by local authorities, is to be increased by £12,000,000 from £501,035, 000 to £513,035,000 reflecting the take-up of the full entitlement to carry forward underspending under the end year flexibility scheme for capital expenditure.
Cash block SO/LA2, which covers housing capital expenditure by local authorities and capital expenditure by new towns, is to be increased by £18,524,000 from £326,900,000 to £345,424,000. Within this total, £24,900,000 reflects the take-up of the full entitlement to carry forward underspending under the end year flexibility scheme for capital expenditure.
The net effect of these changes will be met from the Reserve and will not therefore add to the planned total of public expenditure.
Lord James Douglas-Hamilton [holding answer 26 October 1989] : Information is not held centrally on the element of grants for house improvements relating to the replacement of lead piping. However about 58,000 grants which included lead plumbing replacement were made in the period 1982-88 inclusive.
Mr. Wray : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, pursuant to his reply of 18 October, Official Report, column 170, to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan, if he will make it his policy to collect information about house repossessions in Scotland.
Dr. Godman : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) what guidelines the Scottish Education Department has issued to local education authorities concerning the testing for dyslexia among young schoolchildren ; and if he will make a statement ;
(2) what recent consultations have been conducted between officials of the Scottish Education Department and local education authorities concerning the detection of dyslexia among schoolchildren ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Lang [holding answer 23 October 1989] : Responsibility for identifying children who have difficulty with reading or writing rests with education authorities, whose teaching staff are becoming increasingly well-equipped, through improved training, to recognise and to help such children. While the Scottish Education Department has not issued guidance or held consultations with authorities, its inspectorate has, in approving teacher training courses, ensured that these now contain a special educational needs component. Special educational needs diploma courses include specific instruction in recognising dyslexia.
Mr. Pawsey : To ask the Attorney-General what percentage of letters from hon. Members to his Department received a reply (a) in under four weeks, (b) within four to six weeks, (c) within six to eight weeks and (d) over eight weeks, in each of the last three years.
The Attorney-General : Letters from hon. Members are treated as a matter of priority within my Department, and are answered as soon as the necessary information is available. The legal secretariat does not have the facilities to produce the information requested at other than disproportionate cost. Nevertheless I can safely say that the vast majority of letters from hon. Members receive a substantive reply within two weeks.
Mr. Madden : To ask the Attorney-General if the Lord Chancellor will make it his policy to express apologies on behalf of the legal profession to Patrick Armstrong, Gerard Conlon, Carole Richardson, and Paul Hill for the miscarriage of justice they have suffered ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Latham : To ask the Attorney-General whether he will make a statement on the current position regarding his proposed application to the courts to hold a fresh inquest in respect of the death of the late Petty Officer John Black, RN, at Sabinillas, Spain, in December 1983.
The Attorney-General : The application and supporting documents were lodged in the Crown Office at the High Court of Justice on 16 August. The Crown Office has not yet fixed a date for the hearing of the application.
The Attorney-General : Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary supplementary estimate the cash limit has been increased by £293,000 from £12,784,000 to £13,077,000 and the Department's running costs limit by £243,000 from £14,127,000 to £14,370,000. This increase has been charged to the Reserve and will not increase the planned total of public expenditure.
Agreement on the early implementation of the recommendations contained in Sir Robert Andrew's review of the Government legal service, which resulted in the setting up of the lawyers management unit and the early acquisition of a computerised system for repayment billing, was reached too late for provision to be taken in the main estimate, and is therefore reflected in this additional provision.
Mr. Nicholas Bennett : To ask the Attorney-General what evaluation is made by his and the Lord Chancellor's Department as to the progress of civil cases which are legally aided to ensure that public money is not wasted as a result of inefficiency or unnecessary delay by solicitors and counsel.
It is the responsibility of the Legal Aid Board to establish controls to ensure that legally aided cases are not unjustifiably prolonged, and that expenses are not wasted or unnecessarily incurred. The board is in the process of preparing a case control procedure and will be reporting to the Lord Chancellor when this is settled.
Mr. Barry Field : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport if he will list those coastguard stations which have not maintained a 24-hour watch on the MF frequencies together with the dates when they were off the air, in the last 12 months.
Mr. McLoughlin : There is no requirement for Her Majesty's coastguard to maintain a 24-hour watch on MF distress frequencies. The MF transceivers are provided at rescue centres for the conduct of search and rescue
Column 135operations outwith VHF range. Her Majesty's coastguard contracts British Telecom International to maintain a continuous watch on the MF distress frequencies.
Mr. McLoughlin : The majority of VHF transmissions to Her Majesty's coastguard are of a distress or safety nature. Much congestion on VHF already exists in some areas and attempts to verify that the installation is licensed would aggravate the congestion. Routine calls should be directed via British Telecom coast radio stations which are obliged to verify the installations licence for billing purposes.
Mr. Vaz : To ask the Secretary of State for Transport what discussions he has had with British Rail about improvements to the main InterCity South Yorkshire to London line, and when they could be scheduled for implementation.