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Automated Credit Transfers

Sir Andrew Bowden: To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security what proportion of pensioners opted to receive their state pension by bank automated credit transfer in 1994.

Mr. Arbuthnot: This is a matter for Mr. Michael Bichard, the chief executive of the Benefits Agency. He will write to my hon. Friend with such information as is available.

Letter from Michael Bichard to Sir Andrew Bowden, dated 19 January 1995:

The Secretary of State for Social Security has asked me to reply to your recent Parliamentary Question about the proportion of pensioners receiving payment of Retirement Pension (RP) by bank automated credit transfer (ACT).

Information is not available in the exact form requested. This is because information is not collated to define whether ACT payments are made to either a bank or building society account. To provide information specifically relating to ACT payments made to banks would incur a disproportionate cost.

As of 20 November 1994, the latest date for which figures are available, a total of 2,844,721 pensioners were having their RP paid by ACT. This represented 28.63 per cent. of the total caseload. I hope you find this reply helpful.

TRADE AND INDUSTRY

Parliamentary Questions

Ms Janet Anderson: To ask the President of the Board of Trade how many parliamentary questions she has referred to chief executives of next steps agencies in each year since 1992.


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Mr. Heseltine: The information is as follows:


                    |Questions answered                     

                    |by                                     

Parliamentary       |chief executives<1>                    

session                                                     

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

1992-93             |25                                     

1993-94             |11                                     

1994-95<2>          |5                                      

Notes:                                                      

<1> A number of questions have required answers from some,  

or all of the Department's 10 agencies.                     

<2> Figures shown are as at 18 January 1995.                

South Africa (Visits)

Mr. Terry Davis: To ask the President of the Board of Trade how often he has visited South Africa since the beginning of 1993; what were the dates of these visits; and if he was accompanied by British businessmen on any of these visits.

Mr. Heseltine: I have visited South Africa once since the beginning of 1993. My visit took place over the period 9 to 15 July 1994 and I was accompanied by 57 British business men.

Directors (Disqualification)

Mr. Fraser: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what steps he intends to take to ensure that directors are disqualified when they have committed a misconduct in relation to the insolvency of a company.

Mr. Jonathan Evans: During 1994, proceedings were issued against 747 unfit directors of insolvent companies representing a 77 per cent. increase over 1993--422 directors. During 1995, it is proposed to make further additional resources available to the Insolvency Service's disqualification unit, which combined with the benefits accruing from implementation of the recommendations contained in the report of the Public Accounts Committee on disqualification, will enable the increased effectiveness achieved in 1994 to be further improved.

Insolvency Service

Mr. Fraser: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what estimate he has made of the cost or savings to his Department of contracting out of the Insolvency Service.

Mr. Jonathan Evans: The consultants, Stoy Hayward Consulting, concluded that value for money and other potential benefits needed to be definitively tested; and that the bidding process would provide such a test of value for money.

Mr. Fraser: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what assessment he has made of the applicability of the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Order 1981 to the contracting out by his Department of the Insolvency Service.

Mr. Jonathan Evans: No decision to contract out work of official receivers has been taken; any decision would be subject to the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 and the procedures applicable to contracting out which are set out in it.

In the circumstances it is too early to consider the issue of Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 1981, the implications of which may not become clear until the nature of proposals in any bidding process could be assessed.


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Mr. Fraser: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what was the cost of the Lois computer system; for what purpose it was designed; and what estimate he has made as to whether his Department will recover the cost of investment in the Lois computer system following the contracting out of the Insolvency Service.

Mr. Jonathan Evans: The estimated cost of the Lois computer system, which is designed to assist official receivers in the administration of cases and in particular with the production of the many documents that have to be prepared, is £8,490,150.

As no decision to contract out the work of official receivers has been taken, the question of whether the costs of Lois would be recovered in the event of such a decision has not yet been considered.

Advisory Bodies

Mr. Harvey: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will list the policies and legislation initiated over the past three years that were based on proposals from (a) the Overseas Projects Board, (b) the Offshore Industry Liaison Committee, (c) the Energy Advisory Panel and (d) the Advisory Committee on Coal Research.

Mr. Heseltine: The information requested is as follows:

a) Overseas Projects Board

No legislation has resulted from the work of the Overseas Project Board over the past three years. However it has acted as a valuable source of advice to Ministers on how Government resources including aid and trade provision, overseas projects fund and ECGD cover should best be directed. It has also set up sector working groups, co opting wider industry representation with appropriate experience, to identify project opportunities overseas and develop tactics, jointly with government, to maximise the United Kingdom's chances of winning contracts. So far, seven groups have been set up covering airports; railways and mass transit; power; water industries;

telecommunications; healthcare; education and training.

b) Offshore Industry Liaison Committee

OILCO does not initiate policies or legislation. It has advised Ministers on issues arising from activity on the United Kingdom Continental Shelf and has facilitated a dialogue on matters such as construction demand, forecast of activity and training. A working group set up under OILCO's auspices reported to UKCS competitiveness in February and November 1993.

c) Energy Advisory Panel

There have been no proposals from the energy advisory panel for policies and legislation as its principal role is to assist in the preparation of the Government's annual energy report.

d) Advisory Committee on Coal Research

No legislative proposals have been initiated by the advisory committee on coal research in the last three years. Policy was initiated by the Government under the advice of the coal task force, who were the predecessor to the ACCR. A summary of the policy is published in Energy Paper 63, which is held in the Library of the House of Commons.

Mr. Harvey: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what is the programme of work for (a) the Overseas Projects Board, (b) the Offshore Industry Liaison Committee, (c) the Energy Advisory Panel and (d) the Advisory Committee on Coal Research.

Mr. Heseltine: The information requested is as follows:

a) Overseas Projects Board

The Overseas Projects Board will continue to provide expert advice to Ministers and their officials on issues affecting UK industry's ability to compete effectively for major project


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business overseas. The seven sector groups of the Board have produced action plans and have identified a number of opportunities. These are being pursued.

b) Offshore Industry Liaison Committee

OILCO does not have a programme of work. The committee is free to consider and give advice on all issues which fall within its terms of reference.

c) Energy Advisory Panel

The principal role of the energy advisory panel lies in assisting in the preparation of the Government's annual energy report. This involves regular meetings with officials to discuss the structure and content of the energy report.

d) Advisory Committee on Coal Research (ACCR)

The programme of work for the ACCR is as outlined in Energy Paper 63 (annex B) which is held in the Library of the House of Commons.

Correspondence

Mr. Heppell: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if a complaint from a member of the public would be treated unfavourably by his Department if the letter of complaint included grammatical errors.

Mr. Heseltine: It certainly should not be treated unfavourably.

Anglian TV Shares

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Secretary of the Board of Trade who was the independent QC called in to advise the Secretary of State on the DTI report on Lord Archer of Weston super Mare's share dealing in the Anglian TV shares; and what instructions he was given.

Mr. Heseltine: I was advised on this matter by Mr. Edmund Lawson QC. I am not prepared to disclose the instructions which he was given. These instructions and the advice which he gave were confidential, and to disclose them would involve disclosing the substance of the inspectors report, for which there is no provision in the Act.

Export Credits

Mr. Byers: To ask the President of the Board of Trade in what months since 1980 the Export Credits Guarantee Department has declared Nigeria off cover for medium term export credit.

Mr. Needham: The ECGD, having paid substantial claims in respect of defaults on credits to Nigeria, suspended medium-term cover on 1 February 1984. However, already issued offers for medium term cover were held valid until they expired. Such cover has not been available for new business since that date.

Mr. Byers: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what is the definition of defence contracts as used by the Export Credits Guarantee Department.

Mr. Needham: All sales involving overseas defence organisations such as ministries of defence or armed forces.

Ministerial Travel

Mr. Byers: To ask the President of the Board of Trade, pursuant to his answer of 22 November, Official Report, column 76, concerning overseas travel at public expense by spouses of Ministers, what proportion of the spouses' visit was dedicated to official visits and business.


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Mr. Heseltine: Visits by Ministers overseas involve a full programme of official engagements. Many of these will not be appropriate for a spouse's participation. A spouse's visit will therefore include some of these engagements as well as separate engagements organised by the British embassy. This has been normal practice under successive Governments and applied in the case of all the visits by DTI Ministers referred to in my answer of 22 November.

Export Control (Costs)

Mr. Byers: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what were the total running costs of his Department's export control organisation for each of the last five financial years.

Mr. Ian Taylor: The total running costs for the Department's export control organisation for the financial years 1989 90, 1990 91, 1991 92, 1992 93 and 1993 94 were £2.6 million, £2.8 million, £3.3 million, £3.2 million, and £3.7 million respectively.

Iraq

Mrs. Clwyd: To ask the President of the Board of Trade what assistance was given by his Department to British companies visiting the Baghdad trade fair centre in November.

Mr. Needham: A number of British companies were given licences to communicate on the supply of humanitarian goods, currently permitted under UN sanctions, which enabled them to attend the Euromed and Watertech exhibitions held in Baghdad in November.

Mrs. Clwyd: To ask the President of the Board of Trade (1) what assistance is being given by his Department to the proposed trade mission to Iraq on 15 February;

(2) when he last met the Iraqi British interests group; (3) which companies are involved in the proposed trade mission to Iraq on 15 February; what is its purpose; and if he will make a statement;

(4) what assistance is being given to (a) Thames Water International, (b) Amersham International, (c) Leyland Trucks, (d) RB International, (e) Angus Fires, (f) Quest International, (g) Metrito UK and (h) United Projects to visit Iraq in February.

Mr. Needham: I have heard of the proposed trade mission to Iraq by the Iraqi--British interests group and I have seen the reports of its activities in the press. I have not met the group. Neither it nor the companies reportedly involved are being provided with Government assistance to visit Iraq. Apart from those identified in the press, I am not aware of the companies involved.

Promotional Offers

Mr. Mackinlay: To ask the President of the Board of Trade if he will consider introducing legislation that protects the consumer against the failure of promotional offers.

Mr. Ian Taylor [holding answer 19 January 1995]: I consider existing controls in this area to be adequate.


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ATTORNEY-GENERAL

Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare

Sir David Steel: To ask the Attorney-General what was the result of his action over the Lord Archer share dealing allegations with particular reference to possible grounds for prosecution; and what plans he has to take the matter further.

Mr. Heseltine: I have been asked to reply.

The Financial Services Act 1986 places responsibility for these matters on me. I appointed inspectors on 8 February 1994 to investigate allegations concerning share dealing by Lord Archer and they presented their report to me on 18 July 1994. As I announced on 28 July 1994, I concluded, on the basis of the inspectors' report and departmental and other, independent, legal advice, that the Department should take no further action against any of the individuals concerned in the investigation.

HEALTH

Ambulance Services

Mr. Spearing: To ask the Secretary of State for Health in what places or areas in England or Wales responsibility for running the emergency ambulance service is that of an authority which includes directly elected members of the public, or persons other than those directly, or indirectly appointed as employed persons.

Mr. Sackville: All ambulances services in England are national health service trusts or parts of trusts, with the exception of the London ambulance service. All trusts have a chairman appointed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and up to five non-executive directors, two appointed by the relevant regional health authority and the remainder by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. The London ambulance service is managed by South Thames regional health authority on behalf of the RHAs in London. Ambulance services in Wales are a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales.

Mixed-sex Wards

Mr. Cohen: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what changes have been made in respect of policy on mixed-sex wards in the national health service since 1965.

Mr. Sackville: None. National health service hospitals have always been expected, as a general principle, to provide accommodation in such a way as to preserve the dignity of the individual patient, prevent embarrassment, and at all times to ensure acceptable standards of privacy. This has not changed since 1965, but is now a national standard under the patients charter.

The patients charter in England has been strengthened to ensure that patients are better informed so as to enable them to make a more informed choice on whether to accept accommodation in a mixed-sex ward. Under new charter standards, patients should expect single-sex washing and toilet facilities.


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General Practitioners, Sunderland

Mr. Mullin: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what allocation of funds per patient is received (a) by general practitioner fundholders and (b) by non-general practitioner fundholders in Sunderland.

Mr. Malone: Information from Northern and Yorkshire region indicates that general practitioner fundholder budgets in Sunderland for 1994 95 average £140 per patient. District health authorities purchase all hospital and community health services for the patients of non-fundholding general practitioners, as well as those services outside the fundholding scheme for the patients of fundholders. Because of this, the equivalent information is not available for non-fundholders.

Fraud

Mr. Redmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the extent of fraud in the national health service each year since 1979.

Mr. Sackville: We do not collect comprehensive information on the level of fraud against the National Health Service. However, the recent Audit Commission publication, "Ensuring Probity in the NHS", copies of which are available in the Library, reported that proven fraud was small.

Mr. Redmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what specific actions she has taken against fraud in the national health service since 1989.

Mr. Sackville: The prime responsibility for preventing and detecting fraud lies with the boards and managers of national health service bodies. We have, however, taken a number of national measures including the strengthening of external and internal audit, the creation of audit committees in all NHS bodies, and the issue of guidance on improving internal control in the NHS.

Cancer Care

Mr. Pawsey: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what arrangements cover the provision of palliative care to terminal cancer patients who are discharged to a nursing home.

Mr. Sackville: Where a patient with terminal cancer is discharged into a nursing home and is assessed as requiring specialist palliative care, it is the responsibility of the health authority to provide any such care over and above general nursing care. Specific arrangements should be agreed locally between health and local authorities.

Mr. Pawsey: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what arrangements govern the employment by general practitioner fundholders of Macmillan nurses to care for their patients.

Mr. Malone: Palliative care services such as those provided by Macmillan nurses are not included within the scope of the current general practitioner fundholding scheme. There are currently four total purchasing pilots--a further 30 are being established--where fundholders can purchase all hospital and community care including palliative care. These pilots will be evaluated as part of the national programme.

Mr. Pawsey: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many specialist breast cancer care units there are in the NHS.


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Mr. Malone: The number of consultants who specialise only in the treatment of breast cancer is not known.

Cold Weather Deaths

Mrs. Beckett: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what is the excess winter death rate in England in each of the last five years.

Mr. Sackville: The information is shown in the table.

The figures in the table give the percentage difference in the number of deaths recorded in the period December March, compared to the average for the preceding August to November and the following April to July.


England                          

           |Percentage           

Year       |difference           

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

1988-89    |+7.7                 

1989-90    |+16.2                

1990-91    |+13.4                

1991-92    |+12.6                

1992-93    |+8.1                 

Mrs. Beckett: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how many people died of hypothermia in each of the last five years, by region.

Mr. Sackville: The information is shown in the table:


Deaths in each regional health authority and Wales  

from 1988-92                                        

where hypothermia (ICD <1>991.6) was the underlying 

cause                                               

                      |1988|1989|1990|1991|1992     

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

Northern RHA          |10  |6   |7   |10  |7        

Yorkshire RHA         |16  |9   |11  |11  |8        

Trent RHA             |14  |17  |10  |18  |10       

East Anglian RHA      |5   |5   |6   |14  |7        

North West Thames RHA |8   |14  |12  |24  |10       

North East Thames RHA |25  |20  |19  |14  |17       

South East Thames RHA |19  |16  |13  |27  |10       

South West Thames RHA |12  |11  |9   |14  |10       

Wessex RHA            |9   |8   |9   |13  |9        

Oxford RHA            |8   |10  |4   |13  |6        

South Western RHA     |16  |11  |11  |18  |9        

West Midlands RHA     |15  |12  |17  |38  |20       

Mersey RHA            |7   |5   |5   |6   |6        

North Western RHA     |17  |12  |10  |16  |13       

Wales                 |12  |10  |8   |13  |7        

<1> International Classification of Diseases, 9th   

Revision.                                           

NHS Trusts

Mrs. Beckett: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what evidence her Department has of trusts collaborating with each other in the provision of services;

(2) what rules regulate collaboration between trusts in adjoining areas and in disparate areas.

Mr. Malone: None. The organisation of services should, in all cases, reflect the best interests of the public as both patients and taxpayers. Health authorities have the duty to ensure the services meet the needs of their local population. On 12 December 1994, the national health service executive published HSG(94)55 entitled, "The


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Operation of the Internal Market: Local Freedoms, National Responsibilities".

This guide sets out the criteria by which arrangements between trusts may be assessed in order to ensure they serve the interests of the public. It states the circumstances in which the NHS executive will intervene to protect the wider public interest, balancing this against the need for local freedom to shape services to best meet the needs of the local population.

Mr. Redmond: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what time commitment is expected of (a) NHS trust chairmen and (b) NHS trust non- executive directors.

Mr. Malone: National health service trust chairmen and non-executive directors normally devote around 16 to 24 hours per week and 16 to 24 hours per month respectively.


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