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Contester (Incident)

Dr. Thomas : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the incident in the Irish sea off Skerries, county Dublin, involving the trawler Contester and a Royal Navy vessel ; and what communications have been received by Her Majesty's ambassador in Dublin over this incident.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : At 1830 hours on 12 September 1989, some 25 miles north-east of Dublin, a communications buoy being towed by a Royal Navy submarine became caught in the nets of the Irish fishing vessel Contester ; the buoy wire parted shortly afterwards. The submarine came to periscope depth, made a very careful visual examination of Contester, which had been monitored on sonar throughout, and listened on radio circuits to ensure that all was well. Once it had been established that neither Contester nor any of the other fishing vessels in sight were in any difficulty, the submarine proceeded on her way.

The British embassy in Dublin has been in contact with the relevant authorities in the Irish Republic and has also received letters from interested organisations and individuals in connection with this incident.

Australian Service Men (Compensation)

Dr. Thomas : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if the Australian Government have sought any financial compensation from the United Kingdom to offset

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payments they agreed to make, on 4 September, to Australian service men contaminated by radioactive fallout from United Kingdom nuclear weapons tested in Australia in the 1950s.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : We have not received any such request from the Australian Federal Government, nor would we expect to do so.

Hydrographer's Department (Sales)

Mr. Barry Field : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will authorise the Hydrographer's department to reproduce old charts, pilots and fleet review anchor plans for sale to the general public.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : The hydrographic office already makes photocopies of old charts and documents available to researchers and other individual inquirers for specific purposes. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Defence informed the House on 18 October at column 155 that the hydrographic office is planned to become a defence support agency from 1 April 1990. I hope that, as such an agency, the office would more easily pursue commercially viable opportunities for wider sales of reproductions of the historic collections in its archives.

Nuclear Tests (Safety)

Mr. Martyn Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will seek advice from the Health and Safety Executive under section 11(5)(b) of the Health and Safety at Work, Etc. Act 1974 as to the health of the United Kingdom participants in the British nuclear weapons test programme 1952-67.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : With regard to the health of United Kingdom participants in the British nuclear weapons test programme, we are completely satisfied with the independent and expert advice already being provided by the national Radiological Protection Board, which is engaged in an ongoing study and is free to consult whichever experts it sees fit. It is not for the Government to dictate the conduct or methodology of that study. Furthermore, the Health and Safety at Work Act did not come into force until 1974 and therefore the Health and Safety Executive had no direct involvement in the trials. It would, therefore, seem inappropriate to consult them and the NRPB has not advised us to do so.

Open Skies

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement about the open skies aerial surveillance and reconnaissance proposals for co-operation between NATO and the Warsaw pact.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : As the May 1989 NATO summit declaration made clear, we consider President Bush's call for an open skies regime to be an important intitiative. It is currently the subject of study and consultations.


Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the progress of the Uniter RAF telecom system ; what was the original cost and target completion date ; what are his current estimates ; and if he will make a statement.

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Mr. Alan Clark : Uniter will provide the RAF with a new secure voice and data communications system to support the effective operation of a number of new equipments and systems coming into service in the next few years. Uniter stage 1, involving 12 improved United Kindom air defence ground environment stations, was commissioned and handed over to the RAF in December 1988. Stage 2, involving a further 48 sites, will come into service in the early 1990s.

The equipment delivery programme for stage 2 is proceeding according to schedule. Some equipment costs have, however, increased ; and greater than foreseen difficulties with the substantial works programme, combined with high cost escalation in recent years in the civil construction industry, have led to cost and timescale overruns for the programme as a whole. I am considering proposals to strengthen the management arrangements for the remainder of the programme in order to minimise the likelihood of further delays or cost increases.

Red Arrows

Mr. Vaz : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence (1) what factors are taken into consideration when deciding the annual programme of appearances at air displays for the Red Arrows ; and if he will make a statement regarding next year's programme ; (2) what representations he has received regarding the annual programme for the Red Arrows display team ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : To date, the Ministry of Defence has received nearly 200 requests for public appearances by the Red Arrows in 1990.

At the end of each year, a Ministry of Defence committee considers all the requests received for appearances by the Red Arrows, and other RAF display teams and aircraft, at public events the following year. The main aims of RAF participation in such events are to create good public relations and to attract recruits into the service. With these aims in mind, the committee considers factors such as likely crowd size, expected media coverage, geographical location, whether repeat performances are being sought, and financial and practical considerations.

The committee plans to meet in December 1989 to decide the programme for the Red Arrows, and the other RAF display teams and aircraft, for 1990.

Weapons (Dismantlement)

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what investment in terms of finance and personnel his Department has made in arms control and disarmament verification in the sectors of (a) nuclear weapons dismantlement, (b) nuclear warhead dismantlement, (c) conventional weapons dismantlement and (d) chemical and biological weapons detection and dismantlement, in each year since 1979 ; and what has been for each year the proportion of the annual defence budget devoted to verification issues.

Mr. Archie Hamilton [holding answer 2 November 1989] : Demands on the defence budget connected with arms control verification have been met from existing resources and are not accounted for separately. The information requested could therefore be provided only at disproportionate cost.

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Nuclear Weapons

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he has had any discussions or plans any future discussions with the defence Minister of any country not party to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty on the joint developments with the United Kingdom of stand-off air-launched nuclear weapons systems.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : As I have made clear on several occasions, discussions are taking place with both the United States and French Governments on procurement options for the possible replacement of WE177 free-fall bomb.

Army Presentation Team

Mr. Wallace : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence when the Army presentation team started to give presentations on the British Army to invited audiences throughout the United Kingdom ; and if he will state the dates and occasions of presentations by the Army presentation team on the British Army to invited audiences in the last 12 months.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : The Army presentation team was established to explain the vital role of the Army, both regular and reserve, in the defence of the United Kingdom. The first presentation was given in Tunbridge Wells on 4 September 1989, since when further presentations have been given as follows :



Canterbury     | 5 September             

Guildford      | 6 September             

Portsmouth     |11 September             

Bletchley      |13 September             

Shrivenham     |14 September             

Stirling       |26 September             

Glasgow        |27 September             

Galashiels     |28 September             

Harrow         | 9 October               

Walthamstow    |11 October               

Marble Arch    |17 October               

Twickenham     |18 October               

Lewisham       |19 October               

Stoke-on-Trent |31 October               

Shrewsbury     | 1 November              

Wolverhampton  | 2 November              

Presentations are open to all, and are publicised via the local media.


Mr. Corbyn : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence how many of his Department's ambulances are (a) in the United Kingdom and (b) overseas ; and if he will estimate the normal requirements of the service in peacetime.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : The armed forces have approximately 1,000 ambulances of various types in service in the United Kingdom and approximately 700 overseas. The services also maintain stocks of vehicles for use in the event of war, however details of such holdings are classified.

The military requirement for ambulances in peacetime centres on the need to provide day-to-day emergency medical cover at service establishments and also the need to ensure that appropriate numbers of vehicles are available for training and exercises. The current size of the military ambulance fleet reflects this.

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Mr. Wareing : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what assistance Her Majesty's Government are giving towards the military training of each of the factions contending for power in Cambodia.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : I have nothing to add to the answer I gave to the hon. Member for Sunderland, South (Mr. Mullin) on 30 October 1989 at column 43 .


Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Alan Haselhurst : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will list the subjects on which he is not prepared to answer parliamentary questions.

Mr. Rifkind : No. I answer all questions which appear to be proper to my responsibilities.

Land Renewal

Mr. McLeish : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what was (a) the total amount of expenditure on land renewal by the Scottish Development Agency in each of the years 1979-80 to 1988-89 inclusive and (b) the estimated expenditure on land renewal in 1989-90, 1990-91 and 1991- 92, at current and constant prices.

Mr. Lang : This information is set out in the table and includes the agency's expenditure on urban renewal and environmental improvement generally. The Government's expenditure plans for the years beyond 1989-90 will be expenditure White Paper early in the New Year.

£ millions                                                  

Year           |Cash          |1988-89 prices               


1979-80        |24.9          |46.8                         

1980-81        |31.6          |50.1                         

1981-82        |24.0          |34.7                         

1982-83        |30.7          |41.4                         

1983-84        |30.3          |39.0                         

1984-85        |36.4          |44.7                         

1985-86        |41.2          |48.0                         

1986-87        |44.1          |49.7                         

1987-88        |44.9          |48.2                         

1988-89        |46.5          |46.5                         

<1>1989-90     |47.7          |<2>44.6                      



Mr. McLeish : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what was (a) the total number of land renewal schemes started by the Scottish Development Agency in each of the years 1979-80 to 1988-89 inclusive and (b) the estimated number of schemes to be started in 1989-90, 1990-91 and 1991-92.

Mr. Lang : The information is set out in the following table. Wide variations in the agency's level of support for individual schemes makes it impossible to give realistic forecasts of the number of schemes which will receive assistance this year or in 1990-91. From 1991-92 onwards, this will of course be a matter for Scottish Enterprise.

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                          |Number of schemes started                          


1979-80                   |210                                                

1980-81                   |70                                                 

1981-82                   |116                                                

1982-83                   |448                                                

1983-84                   |264                                                

1984-85                   |173                                                

1985-86                   |242                                                

1986-87                   |287                                                

1987-88                   |336                                                

1988-89                   |364                                                

Mr. McLeish : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what was the total expenditure from the land renewal budget of the Scottish Development Agency on the Glasgow garden festival in each of the years 1985 -86, 1986-87 and 1987-88.

Mr. Lang : The information is set out in the table. The table also shows expenditure on the festival in 1988-89.

£ million                       

Year    |Cash   |1988-89        


1985-86 |2.9    |3.4            

1986-87 |5.5    |6.2            

1987-88 |11.9   |12.8           

1988-89 |3.6    |3.6            

Public Rights of Way

Mr. Kirkwood : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his policy as to whether the Countryside Commission for Scotland will be permitted to fund the erection of a structure which substantially altered the value of a right of way without a variation order being obtained.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton [holding answer 2 November 1989] : The Countryside Commission for Scotland operates in conformity with the powers and duties contained in the Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967. Under the Act, it is the duty of local planning authorities and not of the Commission to assert and protect public rights of way. Questions about the application and interpretation of this duty are matters for the courts to decide.


Hospital Facilities (Closures)

Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what contingency provisions he has made or is contemplating to avoid bed closures and other temporary closures of hospital facilities during Christmas and winter of the current year.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : It is for health authorities to decide how health services should be provided to meet local needs and priorities within the resources allocated by the Government.

Ms. Gordon : To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many new district general hospitals have been built or approved in principle in the last 10 years ; what was their size in area and in bed provision ; and what is the population of the health districts they serve.

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Mr. Freeman : District general hospitals are normally developed on a phased basis, each phase or scheme being the subject of a separate approval in principle submission and construction contract. Information held centrally is not therefore in the form requested and could not be provided without incurring disproportionate expense. I have, however, placed in the Library of the House a list of 482 schemes costing over £1 million completed or approved in principle since 1 January 1980, giving the number of beds in each case. (There is some undercounting because (a) before 1986 information was only collected on schemes over £2 million and (b) central records for 1980-82 are incomplete). Information on the population of health districts is set out in OPCS Monitor PP1/89/1. However hospitals often treat patients from outside their own district boundaries.

Elderly Patients

Ms. Gordon : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what proportion of acute hospital in-patients are over the age of 70 years.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : In the year ending March 1988, the latest year for which information is available centrally, 24 per cent. of acute patients treated were aged 65 years and over and 12 per cent. were 75 years and over.

Maternity Units

Mr. Conway : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what are his Department's guidelines as to the number of births per annum in a district hospital maternity unit for it to be recognised as a training establishment.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : This is not a matter for the Department. The design and accreditation of training for these professional staff is the responsibility of the relevant statutory and professional bodies : the English National Board for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

Shropshire Health Authority

Mr. Conway : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what increase in patient through put he expected to result from the opening of Telford district hospital at the time he decided to approve plans by the Shropshire health authority to close hospitals in the county and reduce the number of beds available within Shrewsbury.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : Shropshire district health authority's consultation document "The future of health services in Shropshire" (January 1988) indicated that the number of in-patients treated across the district would increase in 1990 by about 2,000 a year.

Child Abuse

Mrs. Dunwoody : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list the special programmes for social workers that include training in handling specific cases of child abuse.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The Government introduced this year the training support programme (child care), which makes available to local authorities grants of 70 per cent. in support of expenditure of £10 million on training for social services staff working in the child care field.

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Within the programme authorities were asked to give particular emphasis to training for staff handling child abuse and child sexual abuse. The programme will continue in the next financial year.

Mrs. Dunwoody : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what is the definition of child abuse used by his Department.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The Department's guidance "Working Together" (1988), copies of which are available in the Library, describes child abuse as harm to children by parents, relatives, carers, acquaintances or strangers. Paragraph 5.31 of the guidance details definitions of neglect, physical abuse, emotional and sexual abuse. It states that these categories are not necessarily exhaustive nor mutually exclusive ; and that all are encompassed within the term "child abuse".

Mrs. Dunwoody : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what facilities are available for child abusers under the age of 12 years.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : Child abusers under the age of 12 years are eligible for the full range of assessment, treatment and support services provided by local authority social services departments and health authorities. These may include for example placement in residential or foster care, including secure accommodation where appropriate, or provision of psychological and psychiatric services.

Mr. Patchett : To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many children in South Yorkshire are currently on the child abuse register.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : Child protection registers record those children who are the subject of an inter-agency plan for the protection of the child. The most recent published information about children and young persons on child protection registers is contained in "Survey of Children and Young Persons on Child Protection Registers Year Ended 31 March 1988". Copies are available in the Library.

NHS Accommodation

Mr. Rooker : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what is the number of nurses and other hospital staff living in National Health Service accommodation in the west midlands.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The West Midlands regional health authority estimates that 3,852 nurses and 2,762 other staff were living in NHS accommodation on 23 October 1989.

HIV-positive People

Mr. Butler : To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he intends to issue an update of the Cox estimate of the number of HIV- positive individuals in England and Wales as at the end of 1987 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The estimates of the Cox report are being considered by a group of experts. It is expected that the revised changes will be published early next year.

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Waltham Forest Health Authority

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make it his policy not to merge Waltham Forest district health authority with any other district health authority ; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : There are no plans for a merger involving Waltham Forest district health authority.

Health Authorities (Capital Charges)

Mr. Cohen : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will publish updated estimates of the capital charges for health authorities under his White Paper proposals.

Mr. Freeman : Health authorities are making good progress in compiling asset registers in preparation for capital charging. Estimates of capital charges will be available when these have been completed and valued.

Community Care

Mr. Barry Field : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list those district health authorities which are most advanced in the provision of care for the mentally ill in the community.

Mr. Freeman : Many district health authorities are responsible for examples of good practice in relation to health care for people with a mental illness being treated in the community and I referred to some in the written answer I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Mr. Goodlad) on 13 July at columns 620-25. We do not have within the Department the information necessary to compile a definitive list of such districts.


Mr. Yeo : To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he last met the chairman of the British Medical Association ; and what subject was discussed.

Mr. Kenneth Clarke : I met Dr. John Marks, the chairman of the British Medical Association, with some of his colleagues on 18 October when we discussed details of the implementation of the proposals in the White Paper, "Working For Patients". It was a friendly and useful meeting.

Mr. Hunter : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations he has recently made to, or received from, the British Medical Association.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : Ministers met the British Medical Association on 18 October to discuss the implementation of our proposals in the White Paper "Working for Patients". We have also received a number of letters from the BMA about the details of our proposals.

Treatment (Boundaries)

Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to enable patients to cross district health authority boundaries for treatment in authority areas other than their own, where their own authority cannot provide the treatment concerned ; and if he will make a statement.

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Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : GPs are free to refer patients to the consultant of their choice, and consultants are free to refuse or accept such referrals. Sometimes referrals are not accepted when they involve patients from outside the health authority boundary for whom the authority is not remunerated.

Proposals in the White Paper "Working for Patients" will make it easier for patients to get treatment outside their home district if they choose to do so. Districts will ignore administrative boundaries in ensuring that a comprehensive range of high quality services is available to their population. Money will follow the patient so that all hospitals will have an incentive to offer their services widely. The most popular hospitals that attract patients by the quality of their care will be rewarded. The effect will be to give patients greater choice and better access to the highest standards of service.

Hampstead Health Authority

Sir Geoffrey Finsberg : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what was the spending per head of the population served by Hampstead district health authority in the year 1987-88 ; and what is the figure per head on the most nearly comparable basis for (a) England and (b) the United Kingdom as a whole.

Mr. Freeman : Figures for spending per head of resident population for 1987-88 are shown in the table :

Revenue expenditure per head of resident population         

Hospital and community health services<1>                   



Hampstead District Health Authority                 |592    

England-average for all district health authorities |227    

United Kingdom                                      |238    

<1> Includes hospital, community health, patient transport (

ie. ambulance), blood transfusion and other services.       


(a)1987-88 annual accounts of district health authorities   

in England and those of the analogous health authorities,   

boards and agencies in Scotland, Wales and Northern         

Ireland-as submitted to the central health department in    

each country.                                               

(b)Mid-year estimates of populations-1987 (Office of        

Population Censuses and Surveys).                           

Notes to the table                                          

1. Capital expenditure on hospital and community health     

services is excluded. Expenditure on family practitioner    

services (which cannot be strictly attributed to particular 

districts) and expenditure on personal social services (    

which in Northern Ireland is accounted for by Health and    

Social Services Boards) is also excluded.                   

2. Significant variations in figures for spending per head  

of population at district level arise principally because:  

(a)people travel across district boundaries for treatment   

and resource allocations reflect the pattern of service     

provision locally;                                          

(b)the population figures used make no allowance for people 

resident in one district who receive treatment in another   

or for differences in morbidity and age/sex structure of    

particular populations.                                     

Toxic Waste

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make it his policy to commission a study of possible adverse health effects of abandoned and leaking toxic waste dumps.

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Mr. Freeman : The Department, with others concerned, would commission a study if there were reasonable grounds to consider that there might be adverse health effects associated with a localised source of pollution.

The Department, with others, has established a small health statistics unit at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. This independent unit is developing new techniques specifically to undertake studies of this sort.

Officials will be discussing with officials at the Department of the Environment whether there are any particular sites used for the disposal of toxic chemicals where environmental contamination may be occurring in circumstances which would make a health study appropriate.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply that the then Parliamentary Under- Secretary of State for the Environment gave to him on 26 October at columns 552-53.

NHS Supplies

Mr. Ashley : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make it his policy to ensure that in no circumstance the National Health Service should pay more for supplies than the private sector, and that it should pay less when there is a large and regular order.

Mr. Freeman : Existing policy is to seek maximum value for money and commercial awareness in all NHS tendering and contracting practices and procedures.

Hearing Aids

Mr. Ashley : To ask the Secretary of State for Health(1) pursuant to the answer to the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South on 26 October whether the main suppliers who have offered to supply commercial hearing aid equipment to the National Health Service at reduced prices are now charging the National Health Service the same prices as those charged to private hearing aid dispensers ; what is meant by the term main suppliers ; and which suppliers are still charging the National Health Service more than they charge the private sector ;

(2) pursuant to the answer to the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South on 26 October, if he will request those suppliers of hearing aids who have overcharged the National Health Service either to pay immediate compensation or to lower their prices for a fixed period to such an extent as to fully compensate the National Health Service.

Mrs. Virgina Bottomley : Mersey RHA has completed negotiations on behalf of the NHS with the relatively small group of suppliers who provide commercial hearing aid products to the NHS for special requirement which fall outside that of the established NHS hearing aid range. The NHS accounts for only a small market share of such products in this country.

We welcome the fact that all the suppliers concerned have agreed to supply the NHS at the same wholesale prices as supplied to private hearing aid dispensers. Contract terms and conditions are being established with each supplier by Mersey RHA and the new prices will be effective nationally from 1 December 1989. Suppliers have previously provided hearing aids on the basis of contracts freely entered into by individual health authorities. In

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these circumstances where there is no evidence of any breach of contract it would not be appropriate to claim compensation.

Mr. Ashley : To ask the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to the answer to the right hon. Member for Stoke-on-Trent, South on 26 October, if the National Health Service procurement directorate routinely compares prices charged to the National Health Service with those charged to the private sector ; when was the last occasion that a major supplier was found to be charging the National Health Service more than the private sector ; and what action was taken.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : Action is continuously taken by NHS purchasing officers to secure more competitive prices by reference to market or other conditions. It would not be practicable for the procurement directorate to monitor every price charged to the 3,000 points of delivery that exist in the NHS, or to ensure that prices were always lower than those charged to every other purchaser. The NHS is by no means always a main or dominant purchaser, and prices may vary between health authorities according to delivery, service and volume requirements.

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