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Draft Treaty of Amsterdam

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the impact of the proposed provisions of the draft treaty of Amsterdam on the relations between the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth; and if he will initiate discussions with other Commonwealth Governments on the effect of relevant aspects of the treaty prior to its signing. [3912]

Mr. Doug Henderson: The draft Treaty is primarily concerned with internal EU matters and has no direct impact on UK/Commonwealth relations. We therefore have no plans to hold discussions with Commonwealth governments before signature of the Treaty. There will however be opportunities to discuss EU matters of interest to the Commonwealth in the margin of this year's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. In addition, the EU has regular contacts with Commonwealth countries through a wide range of co-operation agreements, notably the Lome Convention to which 38 Commonwealth countries members belong.

European Union

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will list the activities of the European Union described in or arising from Pillar 2, or the J articles of the treaty of European Union from which the European Commission (a) is currently excluded and (b) would be excluded under the widened scope of such title and articles as proposed by the Presidency.[3910]

Mr. Doug Henderson: Under the existing Treaty on European Union the European Commission is fully associated with the work carried out in the common foreign and security policy field. This would remain the case under current Presidency proposals.


High Dependency Beds

Mr. Cummings: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what is his policy in relation to promoting the establishment of high dependency unit beds in the hospital service. [2460]

Mr. Boateng: Provision of high dependency care is one of many policy areas to which we are turning our attention.

As a first step, we have asked regional offices to report on the current position and we will be using this to take forward consideration of adult and high dependency care.

Private Finance Initiative

Mr. Richard Allan: To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether public funds will be made available in 1997 for the building of the new maternity hospital at the Stone Grove site in Sheffield if the PFI bid proves to be unsatisfactory. [2545]

16 Jun 1997 : Column: 18

Mr. Milburn: The private finance initiative scheme for the new maternity hospital for Central Sheffield University Hospitals NHS Trust is one of the 43 acute sector PFI projects included in the prioritisation exercise we announced on 10 June. An announcement on those schemes which have been selected to proceed will be made at the end of June.

Those trusts which fail to be prioritised will be invited to stop further work on their PFI schemes. Their projects will then be reconsidered and prioritised nationally alongside schemes that are competing for public capital. They will then be progressed under the PFI, if that is appropriate, or considered for funding from available public capital.

Historic and Heritage Buildings

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will review the interest rate returns on capital requirements imposed on trusts where trust estates include historic or heritage buildings. [3041]

Mr. Milburn: The return required on a National Health Service trust's assets is affected by both the set target rate of return (currently 6 per cent.) and the value of the assets concerned.

There are currently no plans to change the target rate of return. However, following a recommendation by the Advisory Group on the Review of the Trust Financial Regime the NHS Executive is at present investigating the methods used for valuing land and buildings in the NHS. If it can be demonstrated that clear benefits would result from changes to the existing method, those changes can be implemented at the next national revaluation.

Health Promotion Shops

Dr. Brand: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on his Department's assessment of the impact of health promotion shops on men's health over the next five years. [3221]

Ms Jowell: We are aware of the Acorn shop in the foyer of St. Mary's hospital in the hon. Member's constituency and there are a number of similar shops throughout England. No Department of Health assessment has been made of the impact of shops of this type on men's health. However, the Department has recently funded a project run by Community Health UK to look into the question of health promotion for men. One of the aims of this project was to identify which health promotion methods are effective for conveying messages to men. This project ended in March 1997 and we are awaiting the final evaluation.

Water Fluoridation

Mr. Etherington: To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what representations he has received from (a) Northumbrian Water Ltd. and (b) Water Services Association regarding the indemnities available to water companies to cover liabilities of operating a fluoridated water supply; [3208]

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Mr. Milburn: None.

Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine

Mrs. Roe: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what is the time scale for the United Kingdom to sign and ratify the European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine. [3313]

Ms Jowell: The Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine contains a wide range of provisions covering a number of complex ethical issues. The Government are considering the implications of the provisions and of signature and ratification. No decisions on a timescale for signature have been made.

Mrs. Roe: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what arrangements he will put in place to ensure that the interests of patients are protected when any research is conducted without their consent, pursuant to article 17 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine. [3314]

Ms Jowell: Under the Convention on Human Rights and Biomedicine, research must not be conducted on patients capable of giving consent without such consent and this accords with current United Kingdom law. Article 17 affects only those incapable of giving consent. For the protection of patients, the Department of Health has required since 1991 that all research on National Health Service patients must be approved by an independent Local Research Ethics Committee. A range of guidance is available to members of such Committees, including a Briefing Pack issued by the Department of Health earlier this year.

General Practitioners (Complaints)

Mr. Wills: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps are taken to monitor public satisfaction with the procedure for complaints against general practitioners; and if such monitoring reveals public satisfaction to be increasing or decreasing. [3671]

Mr. Milburn: Work is under way to develop an evaluation programme which will cover all aspects of the complaints procedures.

Care of the Elderly

Mr. Coaker: To ask the Secretary of State for Health when he plans to establish the Royal Commission on the costs of the care of the elderly; and what its membership and remit will be. [3449]

Mr. Boateng: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Alyn and Deeside (Mr. Jones) on 5 June at column 243.

GP Complaints

Mr. Wills: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what information is collected centrally on the level of complaints against general practitioners. [3672]

Mr. Milburn: Health authorities are required to make annual returns to the National Health Service Executive providing information on the numbers, and general nature, of complaints made against general practitioners.

16 Jun 1997 : Column: 20


Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what recent discussions he has had regarding training in dementia care for professionals; and if he will make a statement. [3011]

Mr. Boateng: We have had no recent discussions on this issue. Such training is primarily the responsibility of the relevant professional bodies, the universities and the organisations which employ health and social care professionals.

The Department has contributed funding towards the provision of training material on dementia for mental health professionals. We commissioned Manchester university to produce training literature in mental health, including specific guidance on older people with mental health problems. We helped the Alzheimer's Disease Society with the production costs of their recent training pack for general practitioner trainers, "Dementia in the Community: management strategies for general practice". The Department also contributed funding to a recent feasibility study led by the British Medical Association into an educational video for GPs on dementia.

Mr. Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what plans he has to increase the funding of research into Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. [3012]

Mr. Boateng: The Government's commitment to the health and well being of mentally ill people is exemplified in "The Health of the Nation". The Medical research Council, the Department's Policy Research Programme and the National Health Service Research and Development Programme are all undertaking work into dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. For example, the policy research programme is contributing almost £1 million to the Medical Research Council's Cognitive Function and Ageing Study. Results of Government funded research are made freely and widely available. Research and development priorities cover a wide range of health care issues and research into Alzheimer's disease is considered along with other research priorities. Government investment in this area of research is continuing.

Mr. Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he is taking to ensure the provision of specialist services for the needs of younger people who suffer from dementia. [3013]

Mr. Boateng: The Health of the Nation Handbook on Mental Health of Older People advises health and social care purchasers to work across boundaries to ensure the necessary care and treatment are available for those with early onset dementia.

Mr. Jones: To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement on the Government's policy on discrimination against people at risk of dementia. [3014]

Mr. Boateng: It is not possible to identify medically those at risk from dementia.

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