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Herbal Medicines

Sir David Knox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if her recent statement about the availability of herbal products in which she referred to section 28 of the Medicines Act 1968 also covers the provisions of section 56 of that legislation; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. Sackville: Yes. The exemptions, together with the public health safeguards which are provided by section 56 of the Act for retail sale and supply of certain categories of herbal medicines will continue to apply.

Sir David Knox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many letters she has now received from right hon. and hon. Members concerning the future availability of herbal medicines; and how many of those letters opposed the imposition of restrictions on the availability of such products.

Mr. Sackville: We have received over 1,000 letters from right hon. and hon. Members who were concerned about the possible effect of proposed regulations on herbal medicines. Our confirmation that the exemption from product licensing requirements for certain categories of herbal medicines under section 12 of the Medicines Act 1968 will be retained when the new regulations come into force has been generally welcomed.

NHS Trusts

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will list for each national health service trust in England the number of meetings that were held in public and in private for the latest year for which figures are available.

Mr. Malone: The National Health Service and Community Care Act 1990 requires NHS trusts to have one public meeting per year. Many NHS trusts have more. The number of such additional meetings and of those held in private is not available centrally.

Ms Jowell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what discussions she has had with the Federation of National Health Service Trusts about the rise in emergency admissions to trust hospitals; and if she will make a statement.


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Mr. Sackville: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State discussed the Federation of National Health Service Trusts concerns about emergency admissions during the course of a meeting with it on 3 November.

Medicines Regulations

Sir David Knox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health by what date the Medicines for Human Use (Marketing, Pharmacovigilance and Related Matters) Regulations Order originally was expected to be (a) laid and (b) passed by the House; and when she now expects these events to occur.

Mr. Sackville: These regulations are due to come into force on 1 January 1995. We expect to lay them before the House shortly.

Sir David Knox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will make a statement indicating precisely the definition of the term "industrially produced" which she intends to adopt in connection with the Medicines for Human Use (Marketing, Pharmacovigilance and Related Matters) Regulations; and how this definition differs from other definitions of the term in European directives and domestic legislation.

Mr. Sackville: The term "industrially produced" is not defined in pharmaceutical legislation. We are satisfied that herbal medicines currently exempt from product licensing requirements fall outside the meaning of "industrially produced" as they are made by traditional processes or supplied on a small scale, and this will be reflected in the new regulations.

Sir David Knox: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps she is taking to ensure that all organisations representing practitioners of alternative and complementary medicines are in future properly consulted about proposed regulations affecting them and their clients; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. Sackville: Our aim is to consult, wherever practicable organisations representing interests likely to be substantially affected by proposed regulations.

GP Fundholding

Mrs. Beckett: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if her Department has received the survey by Dr. Colin Francome into general practitioner fundholding; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. Malone: No.

London Ambulance Service

Ms Jowell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will provide figures for the number of emergency calls to the London ambulance service for each six-month period between October 1992 and October 1994.

Mr. Sackville: The London ambulance service have provided the information in the table.


                          |Number of emergency                    

Six-month period          |calls received                         

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

October 1992-March 1993   |310,461                                

April 1993-September 1993 |351,573                                

October 1993-March 1994   |370,916                                

April 1994-September 1994 |389,189                                

Ms Jowell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will provide figures for the number of emergency admissions to London hospitals for each six-month period from October 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994.

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

Ms Jowell: To ask the Secretary of State for Health which London hospitals were restricting elective admissions in August, September and October 1994 because of pressure of emergency workload.

Mr. Malone: The information requested is not held centrally. The hon. Member may wish to write to the chairmen of the London health authorities for information.

Cancer

Mr. Sutcliffe: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if she will issue guidance to national health service authorities covering minimum standards in purchasing cancer and palliative care; (2) what plans she has to cope with the estimated increase of people living with cancer within the next 20 years;

(3) what plans she has to issue minimum standards covering the provision of cancer care services.

Mr. Sackville: Last year, the chief medical officers of England and Wales established an expert advisory group on cancer to consider the provision of cancer services. The EAGC has already published a consultative report "A Policy Framework for Commissioning Cancer Services" on the organisation of cancer services, copies of which are available in the Library. A number of current initiatives are producing guidelines with the aim of improving standards and quality of care including cancer and palliative care.

Hospital Maintenance

Mr. Nicholas Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will list by region the hospital maintenance backlog as at 31 March.

Mr. Sackville [holding answer 30 November 1994]: Information is collected on the estimated backlog maintenance cost for all buildings in the national health service. Separate figures for hospital backlog maintenance are not readily available.

The figures shown in the table are the estimated costs of clearing outstanding repairs and upkeep required to bring all buildings on the NHS estate up to a satisfactory condition irrespective of whether they have a long term use. They include work to meet statutory and safety standards.

A substantial reduction in the size of the estate is anticipated over coming years, along with a continuing ambitious programme of capital investment. These initiatives are expected, over time, to substantially reduce the backlog problem.


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Figures including buildings scheduled for closure or due 

for                                                      

replacement or upgrading as part of the capital          

investment                                               

programme.                                               

Region                 |Cost of Backlog                  

                       |Maintenance                      

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

Anglia and Oxford      |243,135                          

West Midlands          |382,500                          

South and West         |230,419                          

Northern and Yorkshire |321,103                          

North Thames           |503,381                          

South Thames           |378,527                          

Trent                  |132,983                          

North West             |198,950                          

Invalidity Benefit

Mr. Redmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action she is taking to enable invalidity benefit claimants becoming members of health authorities to retain their right to invalidity benefit rather than claiming members' emoluments; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. Hague: I have been asked to reply. It is an established principle of the social security benefit system that earnings are taken into account in full, whether or not the claimant chooses to waive receipt. There are no plans to alter this arrangement.

DUCHY OF LANCASTER

Ministerial Speeches

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster on what occasions since 1979 civil servants in his Department have been asked to draft speeches of a constituency nature for use in a Minister's own constituency.

Mr. David Hunt: None.

Public Bodies

Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster which public bodies, currently meeting in private, he proposes should in future meet in public.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes: It is for the boards of public bodies to exercise their discretion as to whether or not they wish to hold meetings in public, except in the cases where there is a specific statutory obligation to do so.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster how many parliamentary questions tabled in the last Session of Parliament were not answered on the grounds that the information sought was not held centrally by the Department.

Mr. Robert G. Hughes: During the last Session of Parliament, there were 40 occasions when parliamentary questions tabled to my Department received the answer that all or part of the information requested was not held centrally. This represents 5.18 per cent. of the total questions asked.


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SOCIAL SECURITY

House Owners

Mr. Redmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans he has to revise payments to house owners to protect them from lenders repossessing their homes for trivial debts.

Mr. Roger Evans: In 1991, the Council of Mortgage Lenders gave an undertaking that lenders will not seek possession in cases where mortgage interest payments are fully covered by income support. Last week, my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Social Security announced proposals for changes to the help that income support provides for the housing costs of home owners. Most of the changes will be introduced in October 1995 after consultation. The lenders will be included in the consultation process.

Income Support

Dr. Lynne Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many income support claimants who have lost their benefit books have been refused an immediate replacement in the past three years; and, where there has been a previously lost book, how many had been subject to unauthorised encashments.

Mr. Arbuthnot: The administration of income support 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 Dr. Lynne Jones, dated 7 December 1994:

The Secretary of State has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the number of customers who have, in the past 3 years, been refused an immediate replacement after losing their Income Support order book; and, the number of unauthorised encashments where there had been a previous loss.

The information you have requested about the refusal of replacement payments is not available and could only be obtained at a disproportionate cost. However, there was an omission in the details provided in response to your previous Question on this matter (Official Report Vol.218, Col.694) as one category of loss had not been included. I have taken this opportunity to correct that and, at the same time, to bring it up to date. The revised figures are attached as an appendix to this letter. I am sorry for any inconvenience you may have been caused.

For the reason given in the earlier reply, the present payment system does not allow us to identify accurately the number of unauthorised encashments of order books which had previously been reported as lost. Plans to automate benefit payments made at post offices are expected to provide for full reconciliation of transactions.

I hope that you find this reply helpful.


Income Support                                                                        

                                              |1991-92  |1992-93  |1993-94            

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

Number of order books issued                  |6,472,016|7,599,276|9,117,392          

Number reported lost or stolen                |66,954   |89,919   |108,484            

Number reported lost or mislaid after receipt |28,004   |42,072   |52,931             

Number reported stolen after receipt<1>       |7,418    |10,267   |13,357             

<1> Omitted from figures supplied previously                                          

Mr. Dewar: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security (1) what categories of people with disabilities will be excluded from his plans to limit income support assistance with mortgage interest payments after October 1995;

(2) if people over the age of 60 will be excluded from his plans to limit income support assistance with mortgage interest payments from October 1995;

(3) if lone parents will be excluded from his plans to limit income support assistance with mortgage interest payments from October 1995;

(4) when he proposes to issue a consultation paper setting out his plans to limit income support assistance with mortgage interest payments from October 1995.

Mr. Roger Evans: Changes to the level of income support assistance with mortgage interest payments were announced in the uprating statement. Pensioners will be protected and the position of other groups will be considered during the consultation process. The consultation paper will be issued in the spring.

Mr. Dewar: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans he has to scale back income support assistance with mortgage interest payments for existing borrowers.

Mr. Roger Evans: Proposals for changes to income support help with mortgage interest payments for existing borrowers who make claims for income support from next October were contained in the uprating statement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on 30 November.

Mr. Dewar: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will publish figures giving a breakdown of expenditure on income support assistance with mortgage interest payments by claimant group and for all claimants showing for each (a) total expenditure on interest payments for the first nine months of a claim and (b) total expenditure on interest payments over nine months from the start of a claim, giving the most recent available figures.

Mr. Roger Evans: Details are available only for the weekly amount of mortgage interest in payment at the time the survey was carried out. Details are set out in the table below.


Income support claimants with mortgage interest payments                    

                   |Weekly expenditure|Weekly expenditure                   

                   |£ million         |£ million                            

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

Pensioners         |0.2               |1.6                                  

Sick/Disabled      |0.4               |2.2                                  

Lone Parent        |0.9               |4.2                                  

Unemployed         |3.4               |6.3                                  

Other              |0.4               |1.2                                  

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

All cases          |5.3               |15.5                                 

Source:                                                                     

Income Support Statistics Quarterly Enquiry February 1994.                  

Mr. Dewar: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many existing recipients there are of the disability premium of income support, housing benefit and council tax rebate in (a) Scotland, and (b) Strathclyde and the Benefits Agency districts contained within Benefits Agency area directorates 4 and 5.

Mr. Roger Evans: The figures for income support for August 1994, the latest information available, are:


Scotland (total) |Strathclyde     |AD4             |AD5                              

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

78,732           |51,588          |31,105          |26,690                           

Source:                                                                              

Benefits Agency Management Information Statistics. Data is subject to amendment.     

The information about housing benefit and council tax benefit is not available in the form requested. Such information as is available is as follows:


h

                          |Housing benefit          |Council tax benefit                                

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

Scotland                  |75,000                   |68,000                                             

Strathclyde               |48,000                   |Information not available                          

Source:                                                                                                 

Housing Benefit Management Information Systems, annual 1 per cent. samples with and without Income      

Support taken at the end of May 1993.                                                                   

Notes:                                                                                                  

<1> The figures have been rounded to the nearest thousand.                                              

<2> The figures are for benefit units which may be a single person or a couple.                         

Mr. Denham: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is his estimate of the effect of his decision to remove the right to income support covering the first nine months of mortgage interest on the rate of house repossessions; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Roger Evans: The proposals announced strike a careful balance between the need to stimulate the insurance market, and the need to protect owner occupiers. There is no reason to suppose the withdrawal of income support entitlement for new borrowers for the first nine months will adversely affect the rate of repossessions.

Mr. Denham: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what discussions has he had with (a) mortgage companies and (b) insurance companies regarding his proposals to remove the right to income support covering the first nine months of mortgage interest; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Roger Evans: Officials hold regular meetings with lenders and insurers to discuss issues of mutual interest. Ministers intend to meet the Council for Mortgage Lenders and the Association of British Insurers in the new year as part of the consultation process on these proposals.

Mr. Denham: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is his estimate of the savings to his Department that will accrue from proposed changes to the level and availability of income support to cover mortgage interest in each of the next five years.

Mr. Roger Evans: We propose to consult widely on the precise detail of the changes. The financial effects will depend on the outcome of the consultation and the final details of the scheme.


Column 364

Mr. Denham: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if his proposals to remove the right to income support covering the first nine months of mortgage interest for all mortgages taken out after October 1995 apply to (a) those re-mortgaging existing properties and (b) second mortgages taken out to cover necessary structural repairs.

Mr. Roger Evans: These matters will be considered during the consultation process.

Benefits

Mr. Battle: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will list all forms of benefit that can be obtained through his Department stating for each benefit (a) when it was first introduced and (b) if it was an entirely new benefit or superseded an earlier payment.

Mr. Hague: The information is in the table.


                                                                                                                            |Year introduced                                                                                                            |Benefit/s replaced                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

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

Retirement pension                                                                                                          |1948-49                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Christmas bonus- contributory                                                                                               |1973-74                                                                                                                    |New                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Widows benefit                                                                                                              |1948-49                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Unemployment benefit                                                                                                        |1948-49                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Sickness benefit                                                                                                            |1948-49                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Invalidity benefit                                                                                                          |1971-72                                                                                                                    |New                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Industrial disablement benefit                                                                                              |1948-49                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Industrial death benefit                                                                                                    |1948-49                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Other industrial injuries benefits                                                                                          |1948-49                                                                                                                    |Existed prior to 1948-49.                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Maternity allowance                                                                                                         |1948-49                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Guardians allowance                                                                                                         |1948-49                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Non-contributory retirement pension                                                                                         |1970-71                                                                                                                    |New                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Christmas bonus- non-contributory                                                                                           |1973-74                                                                                                                    |New                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

War pension                                                                                                                 |1948-49                                                                                                                    |Introduced in 1914-15.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

Attendance allowance                                                                                                        |1971-72                                                                                                                    |New                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Invalid care allowance                                                                                                      |1976-77                                                                                                                    |New                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Severe disablement allowance                                                                                                |1984-85                                                                                                                    |Replaced non- contributory invalidity pensions.                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Disability living allowance                                                                                                 |1992-93                                                                                                                    |Replaced and extended mobility allowance as well as attendance allowance to the under 65s.                                                                                                                                                             

Disability working allowance                                                                                                |1992-93                                                                                                                    |New                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Income support                                                                                                              |1988-89                                                                                                                    |Replaced supplementary benefit, which in turn replaced national assistance and non contributory old age pension in 1968-69.                                                                                                                            

Child benefit                                                                                                               |1977-78                                                                                                                    |Replaced family allowance.                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

One parent benefit                                                                                                          |1981-82                                                                                                                    |Replaced child benefit increase.                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Family credit                                                                                                               |1988-89                                                                                                                    |Replaced family income supplement.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Incapacity Benefit

Mr. Dewar: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the estimate of the likely increased level of appeals under the new test for incapacity benefit; and what extra resources are being allocated to the independent tribunal service to deal with that increase.

Mr. Hague: Current planning assumptions are that the number of appeals which will be lodged on the question of incapacity will be in the region of 140,000 in 1995 96. As it will take several months to prepare each appeal for hearing, not all these appeals will be cleared during the year. The Independent Tribunal Service will be allocated sufficient funds to deal with as many appeals as they expect to have available for hearing.

Mr. Dewar: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans he has to channel extra resources to (a) local enterprise companies, (b) local authorities and (c) the Employment Service for retraining, rehabilitation and other strategies in respect of current invalidity benefit recipients who will lose entitlement following the introduction of incapacity benefit.

Mr. Hague: I have no such plans.

The function of incapacity benefit is to help those incapable of work because of their condition. The provision of services supporting those seeking employment is primarily a matter for the Employment Department.

Mr. Dewar: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the estimate of the number of current recipients of invalidity benefit in Scotland, Strathclyde and the Benefits Agency districts contained within Benefits Agency area directorates 4 and 5.

Mr. Hague: Estimates by region are not available. Estimates of the number of existing invalidity benefit recipients in Great Britain expected to be found capable by the new medical test of incapacity are in the table.


Year                 |Number of recipients                     

                     |(thousands)                              

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

1995-96              |140                                      

1996-97              | 80                                      

1997-98              | 20                                      

Mr. Dewar: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what is the estimation of the rate at which current recipients will be medically examined by Benefits Agency medical service doctors under the new test in Scotland, Strathclyde and the Benefits Agency districts contained within Benefits Agency area directorates 4 and 5.

Mr. Hague: From 13 April 1995, and over the following two to three years, the new test will be applied to all current recipients in those areas not in the exempt categories.

Child Support Agency

Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will make a statement on repayments of overpayments made to the Child Support Agency.

Mr. Burt: I refer the hon. Member to my reply to the hon. Member for Doncaster, North (Mr. Hughes) on 25 October, Official Report , column 560.

Mr. Pike: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what factors cause alterations in Child Support


Column 366

Agency maintenance payments when the child being supported reaches the age of 16 years.

Mr. Burt: Alterations in liability for child support maintenance when a child reaches the age of 16 depend on the circumstances of the case.

If the child ceases non-advanced full-time education, liability ceases unless the termination date for child benefit has not been reached.

The maintenance requirement--the amount calculated to represent the basic maintenance needs of a child--can be affected by two factors at age 16. First, the personal allowance for the child increases in line with income support allowances. Secondly, if the child is the youngest or only child to be maintained by the absent parent, then the carer element of the maintenance requirement is removed. However, many absent parents cannot in any case meet the full amount of the maintenance requirement and their maintenance assessment is a lower amount. In these cases a change in the maintenance requirement will not necessarily lead to a change in the maintenance assessment.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what plans he has to appoint an ombudsman or inspectorate to oversee the Child Support Agency.

Mr. Burt: Complaints about the handling of cases by the Child Support Agency already fall for investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration.

The Government do not have any plans to establish a separate ombudsman or inspectorate with responsibility solely for the Child Support Agency.

Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what estimate he has made of the reduction in work for the Child Support Agency which would result if clean-break amicable arrangements were exempted from the scope of the agency.

Mr. Burt: The very limited data available about divorces involving a clean break settlement suggest that less than 10 per cent. of parents with care receiving income support, and up to 20 per cent. of parents with care not receiving income support, may have such a settlement. There is no information about the proportion of cases in which the parties regard the settlement as amicable.

If such cases were to be exempted from the scope of the Child Support Act, the conclusion is that well under 10 per cent. of benefit cases would be excluded. Non-benefit cases in this position are not due to be taken on by the Child Support Agency until 1996 97 and application will be voluntary ex -partners with an amicable settlement will therefore presumably not apply.

Housing Benefit

Mrs. Maddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what was the cost of administering the housing benefit system for the last financial year available.

Mr. Roger Evans: Local authorities estimate that they spent £255 million on administering the housing benefit scheme for the 1992 93 year.

Source:

Social Security Department Report 1994.


Column 367

Mrs. Maddock: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what was the average expenditure on housing benefit per claimant for (a) council tenants, (b) housing association tenants and (c) private sector tenants, for each year since 1979 in constant prices.

Mr. Roger Evans: The available information is set out in the table:


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