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Correspondence

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many letters were received from, and written to, hon. Members by her and her ministerial colleagues in February.

Mr. Sackville : Some 1,813 letters were received and 1,652 responses sent.

Drugs

Mr. Cousins : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what requirements for secure storage of drugs and equipment form part of her Department's agreements with pharmacists ; what discussions she has had with pharmacists on pharmacy stores security in the last 12 months ; and what allowance is taken in the payment structure for pharmacy services of either local or general security problems.

Dr. Mawhinney : The requirements for the handling and storage of controlled drugs are contained in the Misuse of Drugs (Safe Custody) Regulations 1973, as amended, which are a matter for my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department. For community pharmacists these regulations mean that, so far as circumstances permit, controlled drugs, with certain exceptions, must be kept in a locked safe or container. For non-controlled drugs, there are no statutory requirements. However, the code of ethics of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain sets out the practice standards with which pharmacists must comply. These include exercising a proper degree of professional care and control over the drugs and equipment in pharmacists' possession. Practice expenses are reflected in the global sum of money available for pharmacists' pay.

Contractual Incentives

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what contractual incentives Doncaster royal infirmary, Mexborough Montagu NHS trust hospital, and Doncaster Healthcare NHS trust offer to general practitioner fundholders within Trent regional health authority and Doncaster health authority to secure contracts for treating their patients ; and if she will make a statement.

Dr. Mawhinney : None.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for Health on how many occasions in the last five years she has knowingly provided incomplete information in answers to parliamentary questions other than on grounds of disproportionate cost ; and on what subjects.


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Mr. Sackville : None. The Department answers parliamentary questions on the basis set out in paragraph 27 of "Questions of Procedure for Ministers".

Dentistry

Mr. Jim Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what steps she takes to monitor variations in quality between private dental treatments and those dental treatments offered under the national health service ; and what are her findings ;

(2) what plans she has to eliminate differences in quality between the national health service dental service and the services of the private sector.

Dr. Mawhinney : Private dental treatment is a matter for the dentist and the patient. The Department does not monitor standards in the private sector but there is no reason to believe they are below those generally achieved in the national health service. The national health service general dental service provides registered patients with all the care and treatment necessary to secure and maintain their oral health. The dental reference service ensures that the quality of general dental services is maintained.

Mr. Jim Cunningham : To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) which areas of Sir Kenneth Bloomfield's review of the dental remuneration system she has implemented since its publication in 1992 ;

(2) what plans she has to eliminate the inefficiencies of the NHS dental service.

Dr. Mawhinney : In line with his terms of reference, Sir Kenneth Bloomfield's report identified options for reform of the dental remuneration system rather than specific recommendations. Our proposals will be announced shortly.

Orthopaedics

Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what representations she has had from orthopaedic surgeons about the provision of bone-related tissue from (a) living patients undergoing hip replacement and other operations and (b) cadavers, for operations involving the build- up of the skeletal structure in patients undergoing knee replacement and other operations.

Mr. Sackville : None recently.

THORP

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what calculation she has made of the additional resources that will be required by the national health service as a consequence of the operation of the thermal oxide reprocessing plant at Sellafield.

Mr. Sackville : None. The annual risk attributable to individuals from radiation from Sellafield has been estimated as "vanishingly small". This was set out in the reply I gave the hon. Member on 11 January, Official Report, column 117. We have not attempted to quantify the costs which might occur as a result of conventional industrial accidents occurring on site ; this assessment is not normally made for industrial operations at any site.


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Special Transitional Grant

Mr. Alfred Morris : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps have been taken to monitor the local impact of variations in levels of special transitional grant ; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. Bowis : We have in hand a wide-ranging programme of monitoring and evaluation looking at all aspects of the new community care arrangements. Resources for community care came from the personal social services/standard spending assessment, from the special transitional grant and from various specific grants.

Performance Pay

Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much performance-related pay has been paid to health service employees in each year since it was introduced, by region and district.

Dr. Mawhinney : This information is not available centrally.

Regional Health Authorities

Mr. Evennett : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what progress has been made towards the abolition of regional health authorities ; and if she will make a statement.

Dr. Mawhinney : As a first step towards the new structure announced by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on 21 October last year, the number of regional health authorities will be reduced from 14 to eight on 1 April 1994. From the same date eight regional offices of the management executive will be established, sharing common boundaries with the new regional health authorities. Legislation to abolish regional health authorities altogether will be introduced at the earliest opportunity.

Asthma

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what is her estimate of the prevalence of asthma in school children ; (2) what steps she intends to take to increase awareness and reporting of childhood asthma.

Mr. Sackville : The recently published "Health Care Needs Assessment No. 5, Lower Respiratory Disease Research Review", a copy of which will be placed in the Library, and which is funded by the Department of Health, states that the prevalence of asthma in children aged nought to 14 is 12 to 15 per cent.

The Department plans to include questions on asthma in children, from the age of two upwards, in the health survey for England in 1995. Last July, the Department launched the chronic disease management programme, which is an organised programme of care run by general practitioners for people with asthma. General practitioner practices are collecting information on asthma. This information will in time show both the incidence and prevalence of asthma.

Mr. Flynn : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what advice she gives to parents of asthmatic children living in urban areas regarding (a) air quality and (b) passive smoking.


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Mr. Sackville : Information on air quality and relevant general advice to those suffering from respiratory conditions is available continuously to the public on the freephone helpline : 0800 556677. Any individual can obtain medical advice specific to his condition from his general practitioner.

The links between passive smoking and asthmatic children were discussed in the reply I gave the hon. Member on 18 March, Official Report, columns 886- 87. Our advice for parents of asthmatic children is to protect their children by not allowing them to breathe in tobacco smoke.

Accident and Emergency Statistics

Mr. Blunkett : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will list, by region, the number of new accident and emergency cases for each month since November 1992.

Mr. Sackville : Information is not collected on a monthly basis for new accident and emergency attendances. The most recent annual figures are shown in the table.


New accident and emergency cases,                

NHS hospitals, England-by region 1992-93         

                           |Number               

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

Northern                   |712,704              

Yorkshire                  |851,205              

Trent                      |926,631              

East Anglia                |338,875              

North West Thames          |771,198              

North East Thames          |964,819              

South East Thames          |918,914              

South West Thames          |617,496              

Wessex                     |564,475              

Oxford                     |453,362              

South Western              |663,641              

West Midlands              |1,333,724            

Mersey                     |702,597              

North Western              |1,086,088            

Special health authorities |87,473               

                           |-------              

England Total              |10,933,202           

Source: KHO9 returns                             

Out-patients

Mr. Blunkett : To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if she will publish a table showing for each region the percentage of patients entering accident and emergency departments who were seen and assessed for treatment within five minutes of their arrival in the last period for which figures are available ;

(2) what proportion of patients in each English health region were seen within 30 minutes of their out-patient appointment in the last period for which figures are available.

Dr. Mawhinney : The information is shown in the table.


Regional performance as at 31 December 1993                                 

                   |Immediate                                               

                   |assessment30                                            

                   |minutes waiting                                         

                   |in accident       |time in outpatient                   

                                      |clinics                              

                   |and emergency     |clinics                              

                   |departments                                             

                   |Percentage        |Percentage                           

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

Northern           |86                |87                                   

Yorkshire          |83                |77                                   

Trent              |88                |77                                   

East Anglian       |90                |80                                   

North West Thames  |80                |73                                   

North East Thames  |80                |79                                   

South East Thames  |82                |74                                   

South West Thames  |82                |80                                   

Wessex             |82                |79                                   

Oxford             |79                |77                                   

South Western      |72                |77                                   

West Midlands      |86                |87                                   

Mersey             |90                |79                                   

North Western      |82                |80                                   

Prostate Cancer Screening

Mr. Murphy : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans she has to improve prostate cancer screening for men.

Mr. Sackville : We have no plans currently to introduce a national NHS screening programme for prostate cancer. The key aim of any screening programme must be to secure a demonstrable improvement in health by increasing length of life and enhancing quality of life. There is, as yet, no evidence that this would be achieved in relation to prostate cancer. The Department is aware of the need to assess the value of available techniques for the early detection of prostate cancer. Several research projects are currently being undertaken locally.

Pollution

Mr. Harvey : To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if she will estimate the number of premature deaths through lung disease caused annually by pollution from vehicle emissions ;

(2) what assessment she has made of the impact of vehicle emissions on incidence of (a) leukaemia, (b) kidney cancer, (c) brain tumours, (d) chronic bronchitis, (e) emphysema, (f) asthma, (g) atherosclerosis and (h) heart failure.

Mr. Sackville : A number of estimates of deaths related to vehicle emissions have been made. Many assumptions are implicit in these and some use data from abroad. I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave the hon. Member for Bristol, South (Ms Primarolo) on 21 March, Official Report, c. 71-72 which sets out the action taken to assess the health effects of vehicle emissions.

Abortion

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will list by regional health authority the number of pregnancies that have been terminated by request by ethnicity for each of the last four years for which she has figures available.

Mr. Sackville : A pregnancy may be terminated only if two registered medical practitioners are of the opinion, formed in good faith, that an abortion is justified under one or more of the grounds specified in the Abortion Act 1967, as amended. The abortion notification sent to the chief medical officer does not include ethnic information.


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Head Injuries (Treatment)

Mrs. Bridget Prentice : To ask the Secretary of State for Health which hospitals in London employ multi-disciplinary rehabilitation teams for treating local patients who have suffered severe head injuries.

Mr. Bowis : I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. Wardell) on 8 March, Official Report, c. 161.

Luton and Dunstable Trust Hospital

Mr. Spellar : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will make a statement regarding the resignation of Mrs. Avril Dongworth, chief executive at Luton and Dunstable trust hospital.

Dr. Mawhinney : This is a matter for the Luton and Dunstable trust. The hon. Member may wish to contact Mr. David Young, the chairman, for details.

Consultant Clinics

Mr. Gareth Wardell : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will make it her policy to prohibit consultants being paid for taking clinics in general practitioner fundholders' surgeries.

Dr. Mawhinney : No.

SOCIAL SECURITY

Pensions

Mr. Dewar : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate he has made of the number and proportion of (i) men and (ii) women who will see improvements in their pension entitlements as a result of home responsibilities protection in (1) 2000, (2) 2010, (3) 2025 and (4) 2035.


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Mr. Hague : The number of women, as estimated by the Government Actuary's Department, who would benefit from extending home responsibilities protection to the state earnings-related pension is shown in the table. Also shown is the percentage of female pensioners who would be affected. Data are not held which would allow reliable similar figures to be produced for men ; however, the numbers are likely to be small.


Year          |Number       |Percentage of              

              |million      |female                     

                            |pensioners                 

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

2000          |0.1          |1                          

2010          |1.0          |15                         

2025          |3.0          |50                         

2035          |4.0          |55                         

Note:                                                   

The above figures for 2025 and 2035 assume state        

pension age of 65 for women.                            

Mr. Nigel Jones : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will ensure that increases in pensions are made concurrently with increases in VAT charges at the beginning of the financial year ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Hague : In compliance with the statutory obligation imposed by section 150 of the Social Security Administration Act 1992, pensions will be increased in the week beginning with the first Monday in the new tax year.

Housing Benefit

Mrs. Bridget Prentice : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will list by year for the last four years how much has been paid in housing benefit in London ; and to how many households in Lewisham this benefit was paid.

Mr. Hague : The information is in the table.


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Z

                                        |1989-90  |1990-91  |1991-92  |1992-93            

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

Expenditure in London (£000)<1>         |821,400  |1,061,950|1,468,250|1,686,370          

Housing benefit caseload in Lewisham<2> |28,700   |31,400   |34,400   |33,000             

Data sources:                                                                             

Housing benefit, benefit subsidy claims and the housing revenue account claims and the    

housing benefit management information system quarterly caseload counts.                  

<1> The information has been rounded to the nearest £10,000.                              

<2> The numbers of households are averages of the four quarters and are rounded to the    

nearest hundred.                                                                          

Netherlands Report

Ms Corston : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security, pursuant to his answer of 9 March, Official Report, columns 217-18, if he will obtain a copy of the Netherlands report on social security and poverty as global issues, already published in preparation for the world summit on social developments planned to take place in Copenhagen in March 1995 ; and if he will consider preparing a similar contribution for the world summit to add to the contributions of other members of the European Union.

Mr. Hague : No such report has been prepared by the Dutch Government. However, I understand that the Netherlands National Advisory Council on Development


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Co-operation held a conference on this issue as part of its 30th anniversary celebrations. The report of the conference is not due to be available until May 1994. Information on all relevant issues has already been provided to the United Nations in preparation for the world summit on social development.

Statutory Maternity Pay

Mr. Clifton-Brown : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what changes are planned to the system of statutory maternity pay.

Mr. Hague : I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Erewash (Mrs. Knight) on 8 March at columns 139-40.


Column 165

Cold Weather Payments

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what assessment he has made of whether the weather station at Finningley used to assess cold weather payments covers too wide an area ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Scott : All weather station coverage for the cold weather payments scheme is founded on the expert advice of the meteorological office. This is kept under regular review and refinements made. Current advice from the meteorological office is that the Finningley coverage is sensible and meteorologically sound.

Income Support

Mr. Dewar : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will estimate, on the basis of the case 2 assumptions used in "The Growth of Social Security" and the projections of expenditure on different benefits derived from these assumptions, the proportion of (a) all and (b) newly retired pensioners who will be in receipt of income support in 1999- 2000, in 2020 and in 2035.

Mr. Hague : On the basis of case 2 assumptions used in "The Growth of Social Security", approximately 13 per cent. of all pensioners in 1999- 2000 would be expected to be in receipt of income support. Similar estimates for newly retired pensioners and for 2020 and 2035 are not readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Sources : The 1994 social security departmental report and the social security publication "The Growth of Social Security 1993".

Benefit Tourism

Mr. Trimble : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on the outcome of the representations he has received from the Government of the Irish Republic on benefit tourism.

Mr. Hague : Proposals to tackle benefit tourism are currently before the Social Security Advisory Committee. Its representations, and all others, will be taken into account before regulations are laid before Parliament.

Child Support Agency

Mr. Cummings : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many appeals have been lodged with the Child Support Agency, Falkirk against assessments of parental contributions since October 1993 ; how many have been heard ; how many have been successful ; and what is the average time in having an appeal determined.

Mr. Scott : The information is not readily available and could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security on how many occasions in the last five years he has knowingly provided incomplete information in answers to parliamentary questions other than on grounds of disproportionate cost ; and on what subjects.

Mr. Lilley : My team of Ministers and I answer parliamentary questions on the basis set out in paragraph


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27 of "Questions of Procedure for Ministers", as have our predecessors. We also seek to comply with the Speaker's guidance on the need for brief answers to oral questions.

Child Benefit

Mr. Cousins : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will place the range of most up-to-date application forms and guidance notes for child benefit in the Library, together with the application forms for that benefit that are being piloted for future general use, and the previous application forms and guidance notes that have been in use generally, or experimentally, within the last 12 months.

Mr. Hague : They have been placed in the Library.

Service Widows (Pensions)

Mr. Spellar : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what considerations underlie the decision to restrict the pensions of widows of service men who died from smoking or drink-related diseases.

Mr. Hague : A war widow's pension is paid when the death of a service man or former service man is due to or hastened by service. It has been the long-standing policy of successive Governments that only where a severely disabling mental condition, which is itself due to service, renders the individual incapable of exercising personal choice should the effects of tobacco or alcohol be regarded as due to service. Amending legislation, which comes into force on 28 March, is intended to clarify the law in this respect. It will not affect the entitlement of any existing pensioner.

Pensioner Income

Mr. Deva : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security by how much pensioners' real average income has risen since 1979.

Mr. Hague : The information is in the table :


Percentage increase in pensioners' total average real income between                

1979 and 1990-91                                                                    

                     |Percentage increase |Percentage increase                      

                     |before housing costs|after housing costs                      

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

All pensioners       |42                  |54                                       

Pensioner couples    |39                  |53                                       

Single pensioners    |39                  |49                                       

Notes:                                                                              

1. Estimates derive from the Family Expenditure Survey. 1990-91 is the latest year  

for which information is available.                                                 

2. "All pensioners" includes single people over pension age and couples where the   

husband is over pension age.                                                        

Pension Entitlements

Dr. Wright : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate he has of the number of women who fail to claim or receive a retirement pension to which they are entitled at the age of 60 years ; what estimate he has of the total amount of money unclaimed by such women ; and what plans he has to enable women to make backdated claims for the entire period for which they have a pension entitlement.

Mr. Hague : The information is not available in the form requested.


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The only available information relates to the number of women who, on claiming retirement pension, receive increments because they deferred, either intentionally or unintentionally, claiming a pension based on their own contributions, to which they would have been entitled at age 60.

It is estimated that at March 1993 approximately 29,000 women aged 60 to 63 were receiving increments to a pension based on their own contributions. Estimates for women aged 64 or over receiving pension increments are not relevant because the increments may relate to periods prior to October 1989 when pension entitlement was precluded by the earnings rule rather than by a failure to claim.

We have no plans to change the existing provisions governing the time limit for claiming retirement pension and the maximum period for which arrears can be paid.

Malaysian Airline

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will list the dates Ministers, or officials from his Department, including his Department's agencies, have used the Malaysian airline MAS for each year since 1985, including this year to date, on official business ; and what was the cost of each flight to his Department.

Mr. Hague : Since April 1993 no Minister or official has travelled on MAS. Prior to that date information is not available.

Prosecutions

Mrs. Anne Campbell : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many prosecutions were instigated by his Department in the financial years 1990-91, 1991-92 and 1992-93 by nature of offence ; by the number of convictions ; by the number of custodial sentences ; and by the financial penalties involved.

Mr. Hague : The available information is as follows :


Number of prosecutions                                               

                                 |1990-91 |1991-92 |1992-93          

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

Fraud prosecutions instituted by                                     

 Benefits Agency                 |7,917   |<1>4,385|5,821            

Prosecutions instituted by the                                       

 Contributions Agency            |419     |233     |81               

                                 |----    |----    |----             

Total                            |8,330   |4,612   |5,895            

<1> Figures for organised fraud prosecutions are not available for   

this year.                                                           

Notes:                                                               

1. Prosecutions for liable relatives sections, the predecessor of    

the Child Support Agency, were as follows:                           

a. 11 people were prosecuted in 1990.                                

b.  4 people were prosecuted in 1991.                                

No figures are available for 1992.                                   

2. We do not record prosecutions by nature of the offence.           

In 1992-93, 98 per cent. of benefit fraud prosecutions instigated by the Benefits Agency were successful. No similar record of convictions is held for the years 1990-91 or for 1991-92. No records are held for the Contributions Agency.

The figures for convictions by the liable relatives section are : a. 1 person was convicted in 1990 :

b. 4 people were convicted in 1991.

The figures available for custodial sentences are for benefit fraud in 1992 -93. There were 33 custodial


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sentences for benefit fraud prosecutions instituted by the Benefits Agency in this year. Figures are not available for previous years. No records are held for the Contributions Agency or for liable relative sections.

Statistics for financial penalties are not available for 1990-91 or 1991- 92. The only statistics available are for Benefits Agency fraud in the year 1992-93 :


                     |£                  

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

Compensation awarded |1,084,974          

Costs                |149,183            

Fines                |230,396            

Destruction of Records

Mr. David Porter : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how long after a benefit case goes dormant clerical records, cashed girocheques and order book foils are kept before they are destroyed ; and if he will make a statement.


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