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Mr. Hardy: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will advise health authorities and NHS trusts that the use of normal X-ray film is unsuitable for the detection or assessment of severe arthritis and emphysema.
Mr. Sackville: These are technical and clinical issues for which the Department looks to the relevant professional bodies to provide guidance.
Mr. Trend: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what action is being taken by Her Majesty's Government to trace those who may be at risk of having been infected with hepatitis C as a result of blood transfusions.
Mr. Sackville: The Government have accepted the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Blood and Tissues for Transplantation that a look back exercise should be undertaken with a view to tracing, counselling and treating those who may have inadvertently been infected with hepatitis C through blood transfusions given in this country. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has directed that this exercise should be undertaken as quickly as possible and my right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland are making similar arrangements to ensure a co-ordinated United Kingdom approach.
The Chairman of the Advisory Committee has been asked to bring together without delay an ad hoc working party of experts to draw up guidance on the procedures for undertaking the look back exercise and for counselling those identified as being at risk as well as guidance on the treatment options available.
The blood service in the United Kingdom continues to be one of the safest in the world and donors and patients should have the highest confidence that the standard of the service will be upheld.
Ms Mowlam: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many exclusion orders have been (a) imposed, (b) revoked, (c) reimposed at the expiry of a previous order and (d) allowed to lapse in the last 12 months.
Sir John Wheeler: In the period 1 January to 31 December 1994, one exclusion order was imposed by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. No orders were revoked, reimposed or allowed to lapse by my Department.
Ms Mowlam: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what plans he has to revoke all exclusion orders made under the Prevention of Terrorism Acts.
Sir John Wheeler: The continuing need for all security measures necessitated by terrorism, including exclusion orders, is kept under close review. The Government do not intend to maintain the emergency legislation any longer than is necessary and looks forward to a day when
Column 146the need for emergency legislation, including the exclusion powers, will be redundant. It would be wrong, however, to lower our guard prematurely.
Ms Mowlam: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland how many exclusion orders made under the Prevention of Terrorism Acts are currently in force.
Sir John Wheeler: Ten orders made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and a further 59 orders made by the Home Secretary are currently in force.
Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland what conclusions he has reached on the findings of the study carried out on the scope for introducing a private element into the management and operation of Northern Ireland Railways; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Moss: This study was commissioned as a result of a commitment given in the citizens charter for Northern Ireland. The consultants' preferred option for introducing a private element into Northern Ireland Railways was the establishment of a single vertically integrated franchise for passenger and infrastructure operations. The consultants advised, however, that any franchising programme in Northern Ireland should follow rather than lead franchising in Great Britain. The consultants also made recommendations concerning the sale of non-core businesses, such as freight and travel agency operations, and the market testing of other activities.
In view of the consultants' reservations about timing, and bearing in mind that railways services in Northern Ireland are on a relatively small scale compared to those in Great Britain, I have decided to defer a decision on the franchising of railway services for the time being. I would propose, however, to implement the consultants' proposals about the sale of NIR's non-core businesses and the market testing of other activities. I have also asked NIR to examine the scope for involving private sector finance in their capital programme.
Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, if he will make a further allocation of funds to the discretionary social fund budget in the current financial year.
Mr. Moss: I am very pleased to announce that the Northern Ireland social fund discretionary budget for 1994 95 will be increased by a total of £400,000 as a result of better than expected loan recoveries by the Social Security Agency.
The budget for loans will be increased by £303,600 while the budget for grants will be increased by £96,400 increasing the original allocation to £20,463,600 and £9,736,400 respectively.
This increase in the social fund budget will ensure that more people receive help and that the fund continues to play an important role in targeting resources on those most in need.
Details of the revised budget have been placed in the Library.
Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland if he will provide details of the three visits made outside the United Kingdom by the independent commissioner for the holding centres in his official capacity since his appointment, listing the countries visited, the purpose and the total cost to public funds of each visit.
Sir John Wheeler [holding answer 10 January 1995]: Since his appointment in December 1992, the independent commissioner made three visits in that capacity outside the United Kingdom.
From 3 to 7 June 1994, the commissioner visited the United States of America where he met officials of the British embassy in Washington DC, the head of the North European Bureau of the United States State Department, Congressional officials, facilitated by the director of United States congressional human rights caucus, a senior representative and members of Amnesty International, lawyers from New Jersey with a particular interest in Northern Ireland affairs, representatives from Human Rights Watch (New York), the executive director and members of the United States Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (New York), representatives of non-governmental organisations concerned with prisoner's rights, and a senior representative of the New York Bar Association's council for international affairs. On 21 July 1994 the commissioner visited Dublin where he met Mr. Dick Spring, the Tanaiste, a senior Garda officer and officials from the departments of Health and Justice.
From 11 to 20 September 1994 the commissioner returned to the United States of America to attend, at the invitation of their president, the annual conference in Florida of the International Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, where he also met members of the United States Lawyers Committee for Human Rights (New York), members of the New York Bar Association, Human Rights Watch (New York) and some press/media representatives from New York and District.
The total cost to public funds in respect of each visit was as follows:
3 7 June 1994: £1,200
21 July 1994: £300
11 20 September 1994: £3,000
Mr. Corbyn: To ask the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland when the chief constable of Northumbria made his report to the Director of Public Prosecutions of Northern Ireland and the chief constable of the Royal Ulster Constabulary; what plans he has to publish it; and if he will make a statement.
Sir John Wheeler [holding answer 10 January 1995]: The original report by Mr. Stevens was forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions and a copy made available to the Secretary of State. A summary of the report was published on 17 May 1990 and a copy was placed in the House of Commons Library.
Column 148Supplementary reports by Mr. Stevens were forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions on 25 April 1994 and 18 October 1994, respectively, for consideration. The DPP has conferred with Mr. Stevens and certain further inquiries are to be carried out.
Mr. Steen: To ask the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (1) which Departments which do not yet have a fully developed MINIS-type management information system; and what are the target dates for the introduction of such a system in each case;
(2) which Departments have in place a fully developed MINIS-type management information system; and on what date each system was introduced.
Mr. Robert G. Hughes: A number of Departments have developed management information systems similar to MINIS since the launch of the financial management initiative in 1982. The main responsibility for developing such systems rests with Departments. A multi- departmental efficiency scrutiny is currently examining management information and planning systems and is expected to report in the spring. The work of the scrutiny team shows that the Department of Environment, the Department of Trade and Industry, the Export Credits Guarantee Department, and the Government Offices for the Regions each have a management information system called MINIS although they are not identical. These were introduced in 1980, 1992, 1993 and 1994 respectively. The management information systems in other Government Departments have different names.
The aim of the current scrutiny is to ensure that these systems reflect the new structure of central Government and best practice developed in the public and private sectors over the last decade.
Miss Lestor: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs for what reasons the ministerial correspondence relating to the Ankara metro project under the aid and trade provision scheme was copied to No. 10 for prime ministerial approval; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Baldry: In view of the size and importance of the Ankara Metro project, the ministerial correspondence on it was copied to No. 10 for the information--rather than the approval--of the Prime Minister.
Mr. Foulkes: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs for what projects under the ATP programme the papers were sent to No. 10 Downing street for the views of the Prime Minister between 1980 and 1992; at whose request; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Baldry [holding answer 10 January 1995:: No records are held centrally of the information requested and gathering such information could be done only at disproportionate cost.
Mr. Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what was the change in average annual income at constant 1994 prices between 1979 and the latest date for which figures are available of the poorest 10th and richest 10th of households comprising (a) a single adult, (b) a couple no children, (c) a couple with child aged three years, (d) a couple with child aged 16 years, (e) a couple with children aged three and eight years, (f) a couple with children aged three, eight and 11 years and (g) a couple with children aged 11, 16 and 17 years.
Mr. Burt: The information is not available in the form requested. This Department does not produce statistics on the distribution of annual incomes. Estimates of income distribution provided relate to current income at the time a survey respondent is interviewed. Reliable estimates of changes in the average income of the family groups requested are not available for the lowest and highest tenth of the income distribution as the sample sizes are too small. Figures giving the change in real income of the bottom fifth of the income distribution for particular family types are in table A4 of "Households Below Average Income 1979 1991 92", a copy of which is in the Library. Corresponding information for the top fifth is given in the table.
Changes in real income for family type, 1979-1991-92 Real percentage changes in median income (top quintile) |Before housing |After housing Family type groups |costs |costs ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------Pensioner couple |35 to 77 |47 to 92 Single pensioner |33 to 63 |45 to 78 Couple with children |56 |54 Couple without children |51 |56 Single with children |8 to 43 |1 to 39 Single without children |45 |45 Notes: 1. Income change estimates relate to the median income in each quintile; income is net equivalised household income before or after housing costs. Range estimates are given where the range in which the true change lies exeeds 20 percentage points. This is more likely at the top of the income distribution ( top quintile) of each family type. 2. Range estimates show the range in which the true change will lie, 95 times out of 100. 3. Results have not been checked for sensitivity to the use of different equivalence scales.
Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will publish the calculations leading to the increase from 23 November in the social fund loans budget for the South Gwent and Islwyn district office of the Benefits Agency.
Mr. Roger Evans: 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.
Letter from Michael Bichard to Mr Paul Flynn, dated 10 January 1995 :
The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the calculations leading
Column 150to the recent increase in the Social Fund loans budget for the South Gwent and Islwyn District Office.
The principles underlying allocations to the Social Fund in April 1994 and November 1994 were placed in the Library at the time of the allocations.
The South Gwent and Islwyn District Office Social Fund annual loans budget was £1,290,652 from April 1994. Ministers approved an increase of 4% to the budget with effect from 23 November 1994, subject to any adjustment within a limit of plus or minus 0.8% to cover local factors considered appropriate by the Benefits Agency's Area Director for Wales.
Taking local circumstances into account, in particular the fact that flooding in the District was likely to lead to an increase in claims, the Area Director recommended that the proposed 4% additional allocation of £51,626 should be further increased to 4.8% giving an overall increase of £61,951.
As a result, the current 1994 95 Social Fund loans budget for the South Gwent and Islwyn District Office is £1,352,603.
I hope you find this reply helpful.
Mr. Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security if he will give his Department's estimate of the number of absent parents who currently (a) are liable for assessment for paying maintenance for children under the Child Support Act 1991, (b) have been sent assessment forms by the Child Support Agency, (c) have had their assessment completed by the agency and (d) are regularly paying maintenance under the terms of the agency's assessment; and if he will estimate how long it will be until all those who are liable for assessment currently will have had their assessment completed.
Mr. Burt: The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for Miss Ann Chant, the chief executive. She will write to the hon. Member.
Letter from Ann Chant to Mr. Hugh Bayley, dated 11 January 1995: I am replying to your recent Parliamentary Question to the Secretary of State for Social Security about the numbers of absent parents who are awaiting assessment, have been assessed and are paying regular maintenance.
As at the end of October, the Agency had received just over 1, 100,000 applications for child maintenance from parents with care (PWC), involving around 1.2 million Absent Parents (APs). Maintenance enquiry forms have been issued to 637,000 of these APs, and maintenance assessments have been completed in 380,000 cases. Some of these assessments will have resulted in maintenance being paid direct between the AP and the PWC. In 161,000 cases accounts have been set up for the collection of maintenance by the Agency. In 24,000 of these the AP had paid all the maintenance due, and in a further 44,000 cases the AP had partially paid it.
You also asked how long it would be until all those liable for assessment had their assessment completed. Ministers have recently announced measures intended help the Agency increase the speed with which cases are processed and to reduce the number of cases awaiting assessment. At this stage it is not possible to say when the arrears will be cleared. However I can assure you that we are taking all possible steps to deal with the outstanding cases as quickly as possible whilst giving a high priority to improving accuracy, customer service and increasing the amount of maintenance arranged and collected.
I hope this reply is helpful.
Mr. Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what are the criteria used by the Child Support Agency for deciding the order in which absent parents are assessed by the agency.
Mr. Burt: The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for Miss Ann Chant, the chief executive. She will write to the hon. Member.
Letter from Ann Chant to Mr. Hugh Bayley, dated 11 January 1995 : I am replying to your recent Parliamentary Question to the Secretary of State for Social Security about the Child Support Agency's take on strategy.
Our criteria for taking on cases to assess child maintenance have been widely published. From April 1993 parents with care who apply for Income Support, Family Credit, or Disability Working Allowance are asked to authorise the CSA to seek maintenance on their behalf. Parents with care who make renewal claims for Family Credit or Disability Working Allowance will also usually be asked to give that authorisation.
New cases involving both benefit and non-benefit clients are the Agency's first priority. This takes into account the fact that no new court orders for child maintenance are being made, and the likelihood that no maintenance will have been paid before in these cases. The Agency recently announced that it would temporarily defer taking on cases where parents with care have been on Income Support continuously since before April 1993 and have not already asked the Agency to take them on. However, the Agency will continue to give sympathetic consideration to those parents who do ask us to pursue their application.
Once we take on cases we do not categorise any group of absent parents or parents with care as having a higher priority than any other. We simply work through all of them as soon as we can although the varying circumstances and complexities of individual cases mean that, inevitably, some will be concluded quicker than others. I hope this reply is helpful.
18. Mr. Ainger: To ask the President of the Board of Trade how long present British oil and gas reserves will last at current levels of consumption.
Mr. Charles Wardle: Total British reserves of oil and gas in all known discoveries could, at 1993 rates of consumption, last respectively for 25 and 36 years. If the full potential from all possible future discoveries were to be included these would increase to some 58 years for oil and 57 years for gas.
19. Mr. Michael: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what plans he has to support the provision of advice services through voluntary organisations funded by his Department.
Mr. Ian Taylor: My Department already indirectly supports the provision of advice services through its funding of the National Association of Citizens Advice Bureaux which provides support services to local citizens advice bureaux.
20. Mr. Alan W. Williams: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on progress with the Sizewell pressurised water reactor.
Mr. Charles Wardle: The Sizewell B reactor is now close to achieving full temperature. Initial criticality is expected to be achieved in the course of this month
Column 152following which Nuclear Electric will progressively bring the reactor up to full power.
Mrs. Angela Knight: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what progress has been made with his business link initiative.
Mr. Heseltine: There are currently 66 business links operational and we have given approval for a further 122. We are on target for achieving a national network of around 200 outlets giving every firm in England access to a business link by the end of 1995.
Mr. Miller: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make it his policy to ensure that customers benefit from the disposal of the National Grid.
Mr. Heseltine: Customers are already benefiting from the Government's privatisation programme and they will continue to do so.
It is not yet clear if or on what terms a disposal of NGC will proceed. Discussions with Government are at an early stage.
Mr. Cohen: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what is the estimated annual public subsidy toward the sale of armaments.
Mr. Ian Taylor: Defence sales and civil capital goods business insured by ECGD are eligible for interest support under ECGD's fixed rate finance scheme, where credit terms of two years or more are involved. A sectoral breakdown of this support along the lines requested is not collected and is not readily obtainable.
Mr. Eastham: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what positive steps his Department is pursuing to assist the aerospace industry in Britain over the next 10 years.
Mr. Eggar: My department is working to help the aerospace industry to improve its competitiveness, which must be the foundation of its future success. DTI supports the industry in forging international partnerships and pursuing major export opportunities. We are also funding research through the CARAD scheme and have provided launch aid for a number of major aerospace projects.
26. Mr. Jim Cunningham: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement about the levels of gas prices and the powers of the regulator.
Mr. Eggar: Since privatisation in 1986, gas prices excluding VAT for domestic customers have fallen in real terms by over 20 per cent., taking account of the recent price increase. The Director General of Gas Supply has played an important role in securing these benefits through the operation and re-setting of the price formula.
27. Mr. John Marshall: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on industrial relations in the Post Office.
Mr. Charles Wardle: Industrial relations in the Post Office are a matter for the Post Office board and management.
34. Mr. Jamieson: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what plans he has for introducing greater commercial freedom to the Post Office.
36. Mr. Stott: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what plans he has to grant greater commercial freedom for the Post Office in the public sector.
Mr. Eggar: The Post Office operates several businesses. We are actively engaged in widening the opportunities for Post Office Counters and are helping to automate their services. We will announce any plans to change the present arrangements governing the remainder of Post Office activities as appropriate.
35. Mr. Harry Greenway: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will make a statement on the future of the post and parcel delivery services.
Mr. Eggar: The Government are committed to maintaining a nationwide letter and parcel service, with daily delivery to every address in the country at a uniform and affordable structure of prices.
Mr. Simon Hughes: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what representations he has received during the current Session about the provision of counter services in post offices throughout the United Kingdom.
Mr. Charles Wardle: My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade regularly receives representations on a wide range of matters relating to the Post Office, including the provision of counter services.
28. Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what progress his Department has made in finding an occupant for the Volvo factory in Workington.
Mr. Eggar: Primary responsibility for finding a new occupant for the factory falls to the company and its agents. However, the local development organisations, together with Inward, the regional development organisation, and the Government office for the north-west are fully aware of the opportunities the site has to offer. They continue to promote the site at every suitable opportunity.
29. Mr. Enright: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what plans he has for British Coal Enterprise; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Charles Wardle: The Government and British Coal are continuing to consider options for the full range of services provided by British Coal Enterprise. No final decisions have been taken about its future.