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SOCIAL SECURITY

Student Loans

Mr. Worthington : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how much money he anticipates will be saved in housing benefit in Scotland by the introduction of student loans in 1990-91.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard : Estimates of housing benefit expenditure are made on a Great Britain basis, and no disaggregation for individual countries is possible. I regret that it is therefore not possible to provide information in the form requested.

Equal Treatment Directive

Mr. Frank Field : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what are the laws, regulations and administrative provisions, whose texts have been communicated to the European Commission under article 8 of the Equal Treatment Directive.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard : I refer the hon. Member to the report on the application of directive 79/7/EEC of 19 December 1978 on the progressive implementation of the


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principle of equal treatment for men and women in matters of social security (COM(88)769) presented by the European Commission, a copy of which is in the Library. The report specifies the changes made by each member state to implement the requirements of the directive and notified to the Commission in accordance with article 8 of the directive.

Industrial Disease Benefits

Mr. Rogers : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security at what date he will commence recovering the full amount of any benefits paid to victims of industrial disease who have been awarded compensation either by a court or agreed by an out-of-court settlement ; and how long this procedure will take in individual cases.

Mr. Scott : The scheme under which amounts equivalent to benefit are recovered from compensation payments starts on 3 September 1990. Any compensation payment over £2,500 made on or after that date will be subject to recovery. It will apply to industrial diseases if the first claim for benefit naming the disease for which compensation is sought was on or after 1 January 1989.

Before a court award is made or a settlement offered, the compensator will seek a certificate showing how much is to be deducted and paid to the Department. On receipt of a properly completed application, legislation requires the Department to supply the information to the compensator within four weeks.

Non-smokers

Mr. Amos : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what provisions are being made in all the offices and other places under his Department's control for the convenience and comfort of non-smokers ; and if he will make a statement on his Department's policy for non-smokers.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard : A smoking policy has been introduced which prohibits smoking in areas where there is a statutory ban, where there is a fire risk and in public reception and interview areas. The policy also directs that all offices should move as quickly as possible to provide additional extensive smoke-free working areas. Local discussions on those areas are now taking place between management and unions.

Social Fund

Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many applications for travelling expenses were granted from the social fund for claimants to visit relatives in hospital ; and how many refused during the months of May 1989 and November 1989.

Mr. Scott : I regret that the information requested is not collected.

Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security whether demand on the social fund has led to some community care grants being only partially met by grants and partially by loans.

Mr. Scott : I regret that the information requested is not available. However, in the period April to December 1989, 25,000 loan applications which were refused resulted in a community care grant being awarded instead.


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Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security, what plans he has for the social fund loans budget to become self-financing ; and by what date.

Mr. Scott : None.

Loans

Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many claimants on income support each month since January 1989 were repaying a budgeting or crisis loan and how many were (a) one-parent families, (b) sick and disabled claimants, (c) pensioners and (d) unemployed claimants.

Mr. Scott : I refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) on 22 January 1990 at col. 575-78 .

Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what were the total amount of budgeting or crisis loans out on loan to claimants on income support for each month since January 1989.

Mr. Scott : I refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Member for Caernarfon on 22 January 1990 at column 577 .

Concessionary Coal

Mr. Home Robertson : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on the extent to which a local housing authority may disregard cash in lieu of concessionary coal paid by British Coal in the calculation of housing benefit claims and taking into account any recent decision on this subject taken by a local Department of Health and Social Security tribunal.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard : In the income-related benefits, the normal rule is for all forms of income to be taken into account. Regulations provide for certain types of income to be disregarded, in part or fully. Cash in lieu of concessionary coal paid to a retired mineworker or to a mineworker's widow is not specified as disregardable income, and therefore has to be taken fully into account in the calculation of housing benefit and the other income-related benefits. Local authorities do not have any discretion in this matter.

Appeals (Listing)

Mr. Madden : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what representations have been received following the letter issued by the chairman of the north-eastern region of the social security appeal tribunals changing the arrangements for listing cases ; and if he will arrange for this letter to be withdrawn and for the previous arrangements for listing cases to continue.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard : The administration of social security appeal tribunals is the responsibility of the president of social security and medical appeal tribunals, His Honour Judge Holden, and the hon. Member may care to contact him direct.

Remote Benefit Assessment

Mr. Meacher : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what information he has and what research he is conducting on the numbers of staff or the percentage of their time released by remote benefit assessment.


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Mrs. Gillian Shephard : Up to now, estimates of staff time released by computerisation of social security benefits have been based on a comparison between existing clerical processes and the theoretical timings of the computerised systems. These currently indicate savings of 12,250 by 1995. The timings will be confirmed through the normal review programme which assesses staff resources and which will include particular reference to the impact of remote benefit assessment in all work areas.

Research can be undertaken only when the systems are fully operational in sufficient offices to ensure a statistically acceptable sample.

Local Offices (Area)

Mr. Meacher : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the minimum, the average and the maximum geographical area serviced by his Department's local offices.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard : I regret that this information is not held centrally and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Communications (Study)

Mr. Meacher : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the status and purpose of the study in communications commissioned within his Department ; and when it will be published.

Mr. Scott : The communications and the operational strategy study is a pilot exercise being conducted in the London south region over the next three months. Its purpose is to help local office management draw up local communications plans ; collect views on the adequacy of the centrally produced material on training, manuals and briefings ; and to test new ideas on guidance for users of information technology. A communication focus group has been set up in the region to monitor the exercise. Good ideas that emerge will be spread to other regions. It is too early to say when the results will be made available and in what form.

Service in the 90s" Initiative

Mr. Meacher : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what was the authority for the expenditure of approximately £400,000 before April 1990 under the "service in the 90s" initiative ; when the decision was made ; how the money will be allocated between the offices ; what is the purpose of the expenditure ; who will oversee the expenditure and to whom they are accountable ; whether any new expenditure is involved ; and to which section of his Department's budget the cost will be charged.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard : The eight local offices involved in the "service in the 90s" initiative were allocated provision of up to £50,000 each, to be spent by the end of the 1989-90 financial year, to meet costs incurred in experimenting with improvements to current working practices. This decision was taken in December 1989. The expenditure will be met from within the Department's resources, and normal financial control procedures will apply.


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National Insurance

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what is the number of claimants paying the share fishermen's rates of national insurance contributions claiming (a) income support and (b) family support in the latest available year.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard : I have been asked to reply.

I regret that this information is not readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Retirement Income

Sir Anthony Meyer : To ask the Secretary of State for Employment what is the average income of all retired married couples.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard : I have been asked to reply.

The average net weekly income of all married couples over state pension age in 1986 was £123.77. ( Source : Family Expenditure survey.)

Young Persons

Mr. Meacher : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security when he expects to reply to the question from the hon. Member for Oldham, West on benefit changes affecting young people following his holding answer of 15 December 1989.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard : I shall let the hon. Member have the details shortly.


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Local Government Finance

Mr. Dewar : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will give the latest estimate of the cost to local authorities of operating the poll tax rebate system for 1989-90.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard : I have been asked to reply.

The latest estimate of the cost of administering community charge rebates is £10.7 million.

HEALTH

Expenditure (Trent)

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if he will list the total spending allocated to Doncaster health authority for each year for the last 10 years to date, adjusted for inflation ; and if he will also show in his answer, by year, the percentage increase ;

(2) if he will list the total spending in the Trent regional health authority for each year for the last 10 years to date, adjusted for inflation ; and if he will also show in his answer, by year, the percentage increase.

Mr. Freeman : Information derived from annual accounts submitted to the Department is shown in the table :


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3. Expenditure on family practitioner services (FPS) is excluded. Such expenditure is accounted for by family practitioner committees (FPCs)


Total expenditure on hospital and community health services (HCHS) at 1988-89 prices                              

                              |Revenue    |Percentage |Capital    |Percentage |Total      |Percentage             

                              |expenditure|increase/  |expenditure|increase/  |expenditure|increase/              

                                          |(decrease)             |(decrease)             |(decrease)             

                                          |on prior               |on prior               |on prior               

                                          |year                   |year                   |year                   

                              |£000                   |£000                   |£000                               

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Trent region<1>                                                                                                   

1978-79                       |811,883    |-          |110,994    |-          |922,877    |-                      

1979-80                       |846,014    |4.2        |84,826     |(23.6)     |930,840    |0.9                    

1980-81                       |931,369    |10.0       |85,888     |1.3        |1,017,257  |9.3                    

1981-82                       |937,494    |0.7        |100,303    |16.8       |1,037,797  |2.0                    

1982-83                       |941,674    |0.5        |89,015     |(11.3)     |1,030,689  |(0.7)                  

1983-84                       |958,657    |1.8        |89,614     |0.7        |1,048,271  |1.7                    

1984-85                       |978,272    |2.0        |89,379     |(0.3)      |1,067,651  |1.9                    

1985-86                       |984,300    |0.6        |90,697     |1.5        |1,074,997  |0.7                    

1986-87                       |1,032,768  |4.9        |87,499     |(3.5)      |1,120,267  |4.2                    

1987-88                       |1,082,574  |4.8        |81,290     |(7.1)      |1,163,864  |3.9                    

1988-89                       |1,121,344  |3.6        |93,186     |14.6       |1,214,530  |4.4                    

                                                                                                                  

Doncaster health authority<2>                                                                                     

1978-79                       |40,486     |-          |2,656      |-          |43,142     |-                      

1979-80                       |42,072     |3.9        |1,256      |(52.7)     |43,328     |0.4                    

1980-81                       |46,265     |10.0       |1,698      |35.2       |47,963     |10.7                   

1981-82                       |47,117     |1.8        |2,246      |32.2       |49,363     |2.9                    

1982-83                       |51,850     |10.0       |2,958      |31.8       |54,808     |11.0                   

1983-84                       |52,798     |1.8        |1,960      |(33.7)     |54,758     |(0.1)                  

1984-85                       |53,040     |0.5        |2,052      |4.7        |55,092     |0.6                    

1985-86                       |52,957     |(0.2)      |4,062      |98.0       |57,019     |3.5                    

1986-87                       |56,812     |7.3        |3,630      |(10.6)     |60,442     |6.0                    

1987-88                       |59,348     |4.5        |5,213      |43.6       |64,561     |6.8                    

1988-89                       |62,620     |5.5        |6,050      |16.1       |68,670     |6.4                    

<1> Annual accounts of the Trent Regional Health Authority (RHA) and the district (formerly area) health          

authorities comprising the Trent region-including Doncaster.                                                      

<2> Annual accounts of the Doncaster district (formerly area) health authority.                                   

Notes:                                                                                                            

1. The figures for the earlier years have been expressed at 1988-89 prices by the use of the gross domestic       

product deflator. The figures for the financial year 1988-89 are provisional in that they are as yet subject to   

audit.                                                                                                            

2. Hospital and community health services (HCHS) includes hospital, community health, patient transport (ie       

ambulance), blood transfusion and other services.                                                                 

3. Expenditure on family practitioner services (FPS) is excluded. Such expenditure is accounted for by family     

practitioner committees (FPCs) and cannot strictly be attributed to particular regions or districts.              

However, prior to 1 April 1985 the Doncaster and other authorities within the Trent region each had an associated 

FPC and their expenditure figures included small elements in respect of the administrative expenses of FPCs which 

are not separately identifiable.                                                                                  

4. Capital expenditure in particular regions and districts tends to fluctuate year on year mainly reflecting      

changes in the pattern of capital investment throughout the country.                                              

5. The expenditure figures for the Doncaster authority include sums in respect of capital schemes within the      

district recorded as capital expenditure in the annual accounts of the Trent RHA but exclude revenue and capital  

expenditure incurred by the RHA for the region as a whole.                                                        

6. Prior to 1 April 1982 the Doncaster health authority's predecessor health district operated as a               

single-district area health authority and was broadly comparable to the present district health authority.        

Regional Health Authorities

Mr. Michael : To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he last met the chairmen of regional health authorities ; and what matters were discussed.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : My right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State last met the chairmen of regional health authorities on 17 January, when the main topics discussed were implementation of "Working for Patients" and "Caring for People", and the ambulance dispute.


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Cryptosporidium

Mr. Gould : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will list outbreaks of cryptosporidium in the United Kingdom since 1980.

Mr. Freeman : Laboratory notification of crypto-sporidium outbreaks to the communicable disease surveillance centre did not commence until 1983. Full-year data are available only from 1984 onwards, and are as follows :


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Laboratory reports to CDSC England, Wales and Ireland 1984-88 Outbreaks formally reported to CDSC   

Year       Outbreaks                               Suspected source                                 

          |Total    |Family   |Nursery  |Other    |Contact  |Raw milk |Abroad   |Not known          

                                                  |with farm|(+/-)                                  

                                                  |animals  |contact                                

                                                            |with farm                              

                                                            |animals                                

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1984      |6        |4        |2        |-        |1        |1        |-        |4                  

1985      |7        |7        |-        |-        |-        |-        |1        |6                  

1986      |6        |4        |2        |-        |-        |-        |1        |5                  

1987      |9        |5        |3        |<1>1     |-        |-        |-        |9                  

1988      |2        |2        |-        |-        |-        |1        |-        |1                  

<3>1989   |11       |7        |2        |<2>2     |1        |0        |2        |8                  

<1> Campsite.                                                                                       

<2> School party hotel abroad.                                                                      

<3> Provisional.                                                                                    

There are no data on the number of outbreaks in Scotland.

Dental Health

Ms. Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will give the decayed, missing and filled levels for each district health authority ; what is the national average ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Freeman : The information requested is not collected centrally by the Department.

Ms. Walley : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what Government action is being taken to deal with dental health promotion and dental health education (a) nationally and (b) in north Staffordshire ; what are the costs of such programmes ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Freeman : The Department has commissioned two dental health education projects which are currently being piloted. The first, in the north-western region, is being run by the Health Education Authority, which has received financial support of £450,000 for the project in the last two years. The other, organised by the community dental health unit of Birmingham university and centred on the Dudley family practitioner committee area, has received £500,000 over the same period. Decisions on how to follow up these projects will depend on their evaluation.


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Abortions

Mr. Alton : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the methods used to terminate an unborn baby during selective reduction of pregnancy ; and if he will give the gestational age at which such procedures are normally performed.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The method and gestational age at which a legal abortion is performed are matters for the clinical judgment of the doctor concerned, having regard to all the circumstances of the particular case.

Mr. Alton : To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if his Department requires doctors performing selective reduction of pregnancies to require a certificate stating the grounds for termination of unborn babies under the Abortion Act 1967 ; and if he will make a statement.

(2) if terminations of unborn babies by performing selective reductions of pregnancies are included in the abortion statistics issued by his Department ; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The Abortion Regulations 1968 SI No. 390, as amended, require a certificate of opinion and notice of termination to be given in respect of every abortion performed. The published statistics are derived from the notifications received. The regulations do not require a certifying doctor specifically to mention cases of selective reduction of pregnancy.


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Community Care

Mr. Hannam : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will give priority to his reassessment of the part played by joint finance under his community care proposals.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The part played by joint finance is being reassessed in the light of the policies contained in the White Paper "Caring for People". However, there are no immediate plans for changes to existing arrangements.

Mr. Hannam : To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether he considered the training needs of service providers under his community care proposals ; whether voluntary organisations with experience in this area were involved in his discussions on the issue ; and whether he will issue guidance on this to local authorities.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The training needs of service providers, whether in the statutory or independent sector were considered in formulating our proposals announced in the White Paper "Caring for People". The Department is in regular consultation with the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and individual voluntary organisations. Training is an integral part of implementing our proposals. There are no immediate plans to issue formal guidance to local authorities specifically on training.

Adoption and Fostering

Mr. Moss : To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether he intends to issue further guidance in connection with the adoption and fostering of children from minority ethnic groups.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The chief inspector of the social services inspectorate has written to all directors of social services, setting out within a legal and professional framework the principles which should inform family placement work in relation to issues of race and culture. His letter also goes to voluntary child agencies and approved adoption societies so that they too may benefit from it. Copies have been placed in the Library.

The letter emphasises and reinforces existing guidance on the importance of providing a fostering and adoption service which can meet the needs of children from all ethnic groups. Racial origin, cultural background and religion are important factors in choosing new families for children who can no longer remain with their own families. These matters are the subject of a document shortly to be issued by the Council for Racial Equality, entitled "Adoption and Fostering of Ethnic Minority Children : The Race Dimension." In the great majority of cases, placement with a family of similar ethnic origin and religion is most likely to meet a child's needs as fully as possible and best safeguard his or her welfare. Authorities and other agencies need to persuade people from all ethnic groups in the community to come forward as foster parents and adopters. In some circumstances placement with a family of different ethnic origin may be the best choice for a particular child. Full consideration of a child's welfare requires that all relevant factors be properly identified and weighed.

I am confident that the chief inspector's letter will remove any grounds for the misunderstandings which may have existed about the requirements of legislation, guidance and good professional practice in this area.


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Mr. Moss : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he has completed his consideration of issues highlighted by an Appeal Court decision on the placement for adoption of a child of mixed ethnic origin ; and if he will make a statement.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The Department's social services inspectorate has made a thorough investigation of the case in question, with the full co-operation of the director of social services and his staff.

I am satisfied from the inspectorate's inquiries that, in reaching its decision to remove the child from his foster mother and place him with another family for adoption, the authority gave first consideration to his welfare, as it was required by law to do. The child's ethnic origins were, rightly, a factor in its considerations, but this was considered alongside other factors and was neither the only nor even the principal reason for the decision.

However, the inspectorate did find, and the authority agrees, that the child and his foster mother received no visits or any other support from social services for 10 weeks after he was placed with her. The authority was thus in breach of the Boarding-Out of Children Regulations 1955 which were then in force and specified minimum visiting requirements. The authority also allowed the wardship to lapse. However, the inspectorate did find that, after the first 10 weeks, the authority handled the case carefully and professionally. Clearly the failures identified were serious. I am glad that the authority has already taken steps to ensure that there is no repetition in future. The inspectorate has made a number of important recommendations for further improvement, and I am confident that the authority will respond to these positively.

Cash Limits

Mr. Moss : To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether any changes will be made in the cash limits and running costs limit of his Department for 1989-90.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The cash limit for class XIV, vote 1, hospital and community health and other services, England, will be reduced by £2,357,000 (from £11,909,826,000 to £11,907,469,000) to offset £1,600,000 of the cash limit increase on class XIV, vote 3 and to take account of an agreed control adjustment of £757,000 in respect of the use of conventional finance.

Subject to parliamentary approval of the necessary Supplementary Estimates, the cash limit for class XIV, vote 3, Department of Health, administration, miscellaneous health services and personal social services, England, will be increased by £20,246,000 (from £677,061, 000 to £697,307,000) reflecting the following changes : an additional £24,000,000 for the cost of a grant to a voluntary organisation in respect of financial support to certain haemophiliacs who have become infected with HIV, partly offset by savings elsewhere in the vote ; an extra £1,600,000 to meet the cost of updating family practitioner service computer data, fully offset by savings on class XIV, vote 1 ; £26,000 transferred from the Cabinet Office : Office of the Minister for the Civil Service, for expenditure on departmental administration in connection with senior management development training ; and £20, 000 transferred from class VII, vote 2, Department of Employment : employment programmes and central services, for expenditure on the Alcohol Concern


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workplace advisory service. As a result of the changes on this vote, the Department's running costs limit is reduced by £1,897,000 from £246,156,000 to £244,259,000.

The net effect of these changes will be charged to the reserve.

AIDS

Mr. Frank Field : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will approve the AIDS Care Education and Training application for a grant under section 64 for the current financial year.

Mr. Freeman : The Department has already awarded AIDS Care Education and Training a section 64 grant of £50,000 for the current financial year. Its application for section 64 funding for 1990-91 is under consideration.

Alternative Medicines

Mr. Dobson : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the Government's policy about the impact of European Community laws on the availability of alternative medicines.

Mr. Freeman : The European Community is committed to directives on homoeopathic medicines and conditions of supply of medicines to the public, but specific proposals have yet to be submitted to the Council of Ministers. When European Community proposals are published, we shall consider them carefully for compatibility with United Kingdom traditions and communicate with interested parties as to the United Kingdom input to negotiations.

Viable Births

Ms. Richardson : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what is the latest medical evidence available to him as to (a) the earliest gestational age at which a child is capable of being born alive, (b) the earliest gestational age at which a child is capable of being born alive and surviving and (c) the earliest gestational age at which a child is capable of being born alive and surviving without disabilities and what statistics are available to him about numbers and rates in the above categories ; and whether he will make a statement.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley : The 22nd gestational week is considered by doctors to be the earliest time that there is the slightest possibility of a foetus being born alive since before then the lungs are not mature enough to function even if ventilated. Between the 22nd and 24th weeks of gestation, the chance of being born alive and the chance of surviving afterwards increase, but up to 24 weeks, both are rare. Whether or not any particular foetus is capable of being born alive must therefore be a matter for the clinical judgment of the doctor concerned, in the full knowledge of the circumstances of the particular case.

Babies who are born premature are at high risk of disability. The statistics requested about numbers and rates are not available, as information on gestation is not collected for live birth registrations.

Abortions

Ms. Richardson : To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether he will place in the Library a copy of the information contained in his reply to the hon. Member for


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Maidstone (Miss Widdecombe) referred to in his answer of 16 November 1989, Official Report, columns 424-25, on the number of abortions in 1988 on girls aged 15 and under, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20 years, by grounds and category of premises and by grounds and marital status.

Mr. Freeman : The information has been placed in the Library.

Non-smokers

Mr. Amos : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what provisions are being made in all the offices and other places under his Department's control for the convenience and comfort of non-smokers ; and if he will make a statement on his Department's policy for non-smokers.

Mr. Freeman : It is the Department's policy to move as quickly as possible, after local discussion and agreement, to provide a smoke-free environment for those staff who wish it at all workplaces and other areas within its offices not covered by a mandatory ban on smoking. The mandatory ban covers places such as stationery stores, computer rooms, first aid rooms, food preparation areas and confined spaces with limited ventilation. Many individual offices are already smoke-free by the agreement of the occupants.


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