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Dr. Spink : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what steps he has taken to prevent stolen antiquities, illegally removed from their country of origin, free access into the United Kingdom ; what taxes and import duties are applied to imported antiquities ; what investigations were made regarding the legality of the 12-tonne load of antiquities recently taken from an ancient site in Lebanon and sent to a London dealer via Larnaca and Ipswich ; and if he will ratify the 1970 UNESCO convention on the means of prohibiting and preventing illicit import, exportation and transfer of cultural property.
Mr. Brooke : The restriction of imports into the United Kingdom is the responsibility of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Taxes and import duties applied to imported antiquities are also a matter for the Chancellor, although there are no import duties at the moment. Any investigation of stolen antiquities in London would be for the police to take forward. In response to our inquiries, neither the Metropolitan police nor the antiquities trade has any knowledge of the Lebanese objects. The Government have no plans to ratify the 1970 UNESCO convention.
Dr. Spink : To ask the Secretary of State for National Heritage what steps he took to prevent the sale at Sotheby of the 17 Century Joachim Wtewal painting, stolen from the east German Schloss museum ; if he will condemn Switzerland for giving clear title to stolen goods kept in its vaults for five years ; and if he supports European Union regulations on the control of the illegal export of cultural property.
Mr. Brooke : I have no powers to intervene in the sale of alleged stolen objects. This is a matter for the police. The laws governing title to stolen goods vary from country to country and I do not think it would be appropriate for me to comment on those in force in any particular state. I fully support the principles of the European Community directive on the return of cultural objects unlawfully removed from the territory of a member state. That has been implemented via a statutory instrument under the European Communities Act 1972, and entered into force on 2 March 1994.
Mr. Sproat [holding answer 29 June 1994] : With regard to external consultants' reports on market testing, as in other matters, my Department follows the principles set out in the code of practice on access to Government information.
Information which could prejudice negotiations or the effective conduct of commercial and contractual activities would not be published.
Mr. Sproat [holding answer 29 June 1994] : Since it was established in April 1992, my Department and its two agencies have to date spent approximately £66,000 on consultancy relating to market testing. Most of this sum was in connection with a scoping study on the strategic contracting out of central services.
Column 182following unsuccessful tests of samples of recycled paper for computer printing and photocopying, continues to search the market for improved products which would enable items such as press releases and written answers to be produced on such paper.
This is under review. Other matters concerning deregulation of betting shops are receiving attention at present. We will then turn to the question of amusement-with-prizes machines in betting shops, but that would require primary legislation and it is not expected that there would be any changes to the law in the short term. However, we will review the policy and announce our conclusions in due course.
Mr. Hague : The Social Security Advisory Committee, the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council, the Disability Living Allowance Advisory Board, the Central Advisory Committee on War Pensions and the war pensions committees.
Mr. Kilfoyle : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security which of the advisory non-departmental public bodies sponsored by his Department are required to lay their annual reports before Parliament ; and if he will list them.
Column 183non-departmental public bodies which the Government are required to consult before legislation proposals ; and in respect of which bodies the Government must publish their response to advice supplied by them.
Mr. Hague : My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State is required to consult the Social Security Advisory Committee on most proposals to amend social security regulations. If the committee reports on those proposals, my right hon. Friend is required to publish the report and his response to any recommendations if and when the regulations are laid before Parliament.
My right hon. Friend is similarly required to refer most proposals to amend regulations relating to industrial injuries benefit or its administration to the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council for consideration and advice.
Mr. Worthington : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what is his policy in respect of reclaiming previously paid sickness benefits from sufferers from asbestos-related diseases who have won compensation through the courts ;
(2) what is the basis (a) for requiring sufferers from asbestosis and mesothelioma have to repay compensation for industrial injury and (b) for not requiring sufferers from pneumoconiosis to do so ; (3) what is his policy in respect of the pursuit of claims for repayment of sickness benefit from asbestosis sufferers after death if they win court cases for damages posthumously.
Mr. Scott : I refer the hon. Member to the answer that I gave him on 21 June at column 147. The value of all relevant benefits, including sickness benefit, should be deducted from compensation awards exceeding £2,500. The provisions also apply to posthumous settlements.
Payments made under the pneumoconiosis compensation scheme are exempted from recoupment because the scheme has been subject to Government funding and it was structured to supplement, rather than replace, social security benefit payments.
Ms Corston : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will list what information in relation to low-income families is available for the statements in the United Kingdom's first report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in respect of (a) the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for the child's physical, mental, spiritual and social development, and (b) the level of real disposable income of all types of families with children in 1979 and currently.
A recent research report, "Support for Children, A Comparison of Arrangements in Fifteen Countries", published by this Department in 1993, provides a comparative analysis of United Kingdom support for children against that of other countries.
The latest estimates of changes in the real disposable income since 1979 for various family types can be found in "Households Below Average Income 1979-1990/91", published in June 1993.
Column 184Copies of all of those publications are in the Library.
Mr. Burden : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many claims were made on behalf of vaccine-damaged children for the vaccine damage payment, who have been accepted as vaccine-damaged but were turned down because their disability was less than 80 per cent., between the passing of the compensation Act and June 1981 ; and how many parents have applied but have been turned down because of the six-year ruling between these dates.
Mr. Scott : The administration of the vaccine damage payment scheme is a matter for Mr. Michael Bichard, the chief executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the hon. Member with such information as is available.
Letter from Michael Bichard to Mr. Richard Burden, dated 4 July 1994 :
The Secretary of State for Social Security has aked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question asking how many claims were made on behalf of vaccine damaged children for the vaccine damage payment, who have been accepted as vaccine damaged but were turned down because their disability was less than 80 per cent. between the passing of the compensation act and June 1981 ; and how many parents have applied but have been turned down because of the six year ruling between these dates.
You will be aware from my earlier letter of 24 June 1994 to you about this subject [OR Vol 245 Col 441] that the full range of information requested is not available. This is because statistics relating to claims for Vaccine Damage Payments were not maintained in a form which could identify the specific reason for refusal until June 1981. However, I am able to tell you that in the period up to June 1981 there were 2,742 claims made, the majority being on behalf of Vaccine Damaged children and a small minority being made by self claimants, ie persons over the age of 18 years. Of those claims 2,301 claims were disallowed.
I am sorry that I am unable to be more specific on this occasion but I hope you find this reply helpful.
Mr. Gunnell : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what considerations led to the requirement that cheques made payable by the CSA as a refund for overpayment should include the individual's name, address and national insurance number.
Letter from Ros Hepplewhite to Mr. John Gunnell, dated 5 July 1994 :
I am replying to your recent Parliamentary Question to the Secretary of State for Social Security about the inclusion of clients' names, addresses and National Insurance numbers on girocheques.
Column 185National Insurance Numbers are included on girocheques as the Agency uses them as unique reference numbers for clients. The address is included because girocheques are despatched in window envelopes.
I hope this reply is useful.
Ms Ruddock : To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security, pursuant to his answer of 21 June, Official Report , columns 140-41 , when he was first made aware of the problems concerning the checks made to ensure that unemployed claimants do not overpay their loans from the social fund ; if he will list the district offices which have been affected ; and how many claimants at each office have (a) had a refund or (b) had the overpayment offset against another loan.
Mr. Scott : The administration of the social fund is a matter for Mr. Michael Bichard, the chief executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to the hon. Member with such information as is available. Letter from Michael Bichard to Ms Joan Ruddock, dated 4 July 1994 :
The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question asking the Secretary of State, pursuant to his answer of 21 June, OR cols. 140-1, when he was first made aware of the problems concerning the checks made to ensure that unemployed claimants do not overpay their loans from the Social Fund ; if he will list the district offices which have been affected ; and how many claimants at each office have (a) had a refund or (b) had the overpayment offset against another loan.
Firstly, I should explain that whilst the Agency is aware that there have been problems with unemployed customers overpaying their loans, statistics have not been maintained to record the number of individuals customers concerned or indeed the Districts involved. To obtain this specific information would require a manual trawl of each Districts records, an exercise which could only be undertaken at a disproportionate cost.
With regard to checks which are carried out, I am pleased to tell you that there is not a problem with the checks I outlined in my previous response of 21 June 1994 [OR Vol 245 Col 140]. The automated and clerical checks are effective and minimise the risk of over-recovery, ensuring that if exceptionally, a customer overpays a loan, a refund is made or that over -recovery offset against another loan.
I am unable to comment about any difficulties that the Employment Services Agency may have experienced where SF deductions are their responsibility. However, I can assure you that there is a regular dialogue between both Agencies where any problems are discussed and resolutions sought. Furthermore, I am confident that the automation of SF recoveries planned for April 1995 will improve matters still further.
I hope you find this reply helpful.
Mr. Bowis : The Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work is reviewing the diploma in social work to keep pace with legislation and best social work practice. Training for social workers should be down to earth, practical and based on sound knowledge of the law.
13. Mr. Jim Marshall : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what guarantees the NHS guidance for staff on relations with the press and media provide against dismissal for any nurse, midwife or health visitor who publicises misconduct or mismanagement within the NHS ; and if she will make a statement.
Mr. Alfred Morris : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what guarantees the National Health Service Executive guidance for staff on relations with the public and the media provide against dismissal for any nurse, midwife or health visitor who publicises misconduct or mismanagement within the NHS ; and if she will make a statement.
Dr. Mawhinney : The guidance makes it clear that employees who express their views about health service issues in accordance with the guidance are not to be penalised in any way for doing so. Responsibility for decisions about disciplinary matters lies with each national health service employer.
Mr. Sackville : A total of 17 national health service hospital building projects costing over £1 million have been completed in Buckinghamshire since 1979. The approximate cost to public funds was in excess of £70 million. These costs include construction, fees and equipment but information on total cost of schemes is not available. For example, value added tax and land purchase costs are excluded.
Dr. Mawhinney : There are now 283 fundholding practices in the west midlands, covering 41 per cent. of the population, and purchasing nearly 10 per cent. of all hospital and community health services.
16. Mr. Dalyell : To ask the Secretary of State for Health, pursuant to her oral answer of 24 May, Official Report, column 166, what consultations she has had with the Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority about the use of ovarian foetal material in research ; and what action she proposes to take until such time as the Human Fertilisation and Embryo Authority reports.
Mr. Sackville : Ministers and officials from the Department meet regularly the authority's chairman, members and executive. The authority's consultation exercise has been discussed at some of these meetings.
Mr. Sackville : Purchasing authorities have an important role in the national health service and there has been much good work to develop their function. This will be consolidated through the enabling legislation, which will allow district health authorities and family health services authorities to merge and ensure high levels of performance and effectiveness.
Mr. Bowis : It is far too early to draw definitive conclusions about the success of the new arrangements. However, what we have seen so far suggests that the Health Committee was right to conclude last March that
"the new funding arrangements provide the potential for a better and more efficient use of public money."
Dr. Mawhinney : We are committed to an effective and accessible national health service dental service. There were, at the latest dates, more dentists on the lists of family health services authorities and 3.8 per cent. more registered patients than at 1 July 1992.
21. Mr. Bayley : To ask the Secretary of State for Health when her Department received the report on the review of the resource allocation working party and the capitation funding formula ; when the report will be published ; and when her Department will publish its proposals on future funding formulae for the national health service.
Mr. Sackville : The weighted capitation review steering group received in March 1994 the results of a study commissioned from York university. I understand that York university intends to publish its findings in due course.
The steering group forwarded the results, together with its comments, to the National Health Service Executive at the end of April. The executive is still evaluating these.
Mr. Sackville : In the first two years of its existence, the number of in-patients treated at Rugby Hospital national health service trust has grown from 12,188 in 1991-92 to 12,478 in 1992-93 ; this represents a 2.4 per cent. increase.
Statistical Source : Ordinary admissions and day cases, general and acute ; figures taken from KP70 returns.
Mr. Sackville : There is no independent national health service sector. NHS trusts are free to make accommodation and services available to private patients provided that there is no significant disadvantage in the exercise of their obligations under any NHS contract.
Mr. Sackville : It is for regional health authorities to make allocations of funds to district health authorities, adapting the national formula for weighted capitation, to take account of the differing health needs of their resident population and particular local characteristics and circumstances.
27. Mr. Riddick : To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will outline the levels of expenditure paid by the Government to the NHS in the Yorkshire region in 1994-95 and in 1978-79 at 1994 constant prices.