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17 Jul 1995 : Column WA1

Written Answers

Monday, 17th July, 1995.

Overseas Aid

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in the light of the press release of 28th June claiming that overseas aid has been held in the past year at 0.31 per cent. of GNP compared with the UN target of 0.7 per cent. and a UK level of 0.51 per cent. in 1979, they will now revise upwards their expenditure plans as explained to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, which indicate that, with aid frozen at £2,150 million in 1997–98, the proportion may in that year fall to near 0.27 per cent.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Chalker of Wallasey): OECD figures for 1994 do indeed show that UK net official development assistance was 0.31 per cent. of GNP, above the 0.29 per cent. average for all OECD donors.

The size of the aid budget in future years will be determined in the next and future Public Expenditure Survey rounds.

Organophosphorus Sheep Dips: IOH Report

Lord Lyell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    If they have completed their consideration of the advice that they have received from the Veterinary Products Committee on the report from the Institute of Occupational Health into possible chronic neuropsychological effects of occupational exposure to organophosphate sheep dips; and if they will make a statement.

Lord Lucas: Yes. In the light of the assessment of the Institute of Occupational Health (IOH) report by its Medical and Scientific Panel, the Chairman of the Veterinary Products Committee (Professor Sir James Armour) has advised me that while the report contributed to the body of information now available, and its publication was to be welcomed, it was not in itself a definitive study. The committee found that the study did not provide sufficient scientific evidence to support the hypothesis that chronic health effects are associated with long term, low level, exposure to OP sheep dips. The conclusions reached by the IOH in the associated Lancet article did not appear to be adequately supported by the data in the full report. The committee therefore reaffirmed its previous advice that, on the basis of current scientific evidence, the marketing of OP dips should continue.

Among other recommendations, the committee urged that the award of contracts for the epidemiological research be pursued as a matter of urgency, and the need for farmers to follow the guidance in the "Sheep dipping" booklet was re-emphasised. A copy of the chairman's letter, and the full findings and advice of the committee are being placed in the Library of the House.

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Having consulted the other agriculture and health Ministers who form the licensing authority, I can confirm that the Government has accepted the VPC's advice in full. In doing so, we are mindful of the continuing reports of outbreaks of sheep scab, and the importance of OP dips to animal welfare. Nevertheless, it is essential that users consider what treatment is best, take the steps necessary under the COSHH Regulations to assess the risks and decide what precautions are needed in the use of OP dips, and recognise the importance of following the available guidance and instructions on the label to ensure safe use of the product. This is just as important for non-OP dips, where the same precautions are recommended as for OP dips.

We also welcome the IOH report as providing a valuable contribution to the continuing debate on the possible long term effects of exposure to organophosphates. It forms a basis for the further epidemiological research for which we are currently assessing proposals. Following the recent advertisement we have received a total of 12 proposals, and these are being urgently considered. I hope to make a further announcement about progress with this before the end of the month.

Means-Tested Benefits: Disentitlement Measures

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What measures they have introduced since 1986 to disentitle people to means-tested social security benefits to which their means would otherwise have entitled them, under the following headings:

    (a) measures disentitling a category of people, regardless of any personal misconduct.

    (b) measures creating a power of total disentitlement as a penalty for personal misconduct.

    (c) measures creating a power to impose a deduction from benefit as a penalty for personal misconduct.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): The measures are:

(a) Housing benefit for students in halls of residence withdrawn.

The Housing Benefits Amendment (No. 3) Regulations 1986 (SI 1986 No. 1009).

Supplementary benefit for students limited to the summer vacation.

Supplementary Benefit (Requirements and Resources) Miscellaneous Amendment Regulations 1986 (SI 1986/1293).

A person who is a member of, and is fully maintained by, a religious order is treated as not liable to make payments in respect of a dwelling and is therefore not entitled to housing benefit.

The Housing Benefit (General) Regulations 1987 (SI 1987/1971).

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16/17 year-olds disentitled to income support except in certain vulnerable groups and in cases of severe hardship.

The Social Security Act 1988 (Section 4) (Chapter 7).

From the start of the 1990/91 academic year the majority of full-time students were excluded from income support and housing benefit—exceptions were made for students in prescribed vulnerable groups, including disabled students and students with dependent children.

The Social Security Benefits (Student Loans and Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 1990 (SI 1990 No. 1549).

Care in the community provisions—removed entitlement to housing benefit for all new residents entering registered residential accommodation on or after 1 April 1993.

The Social Security Benefits (Amendments Consequential Upon the Introduction of Community Care) Regulations 1992 (SI 1994 No. 3147).

Habitual residence, rights residence directives and immigration status tests—restrict access to housing benefit of persons entering the United Kingdom from abroad. Immigration status test—April 1994.

The Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Amendment) Regulations 1994 (SI 1994 No. 470).

Habitual residence and rights of residence directive tests—August 1994.

The Income-related Benefits Schemes (Miscellaneous Amendments) (No. 3) Regulations 1994 (SI 1994 No. 1807).

Persons required by the Secretary of State to leave the United Kingdom disentitled to income support [effective from 12 April 1993].

Income-related Benefits Schemes (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 1993 (SI 1993 No. 315).

Persons from abroad who sought to vary their leave or to regularise their position after overstaying their leave disentitled to income support at the urgent cases rate [effective from 2 August 1993].

Income Support (General) Amendment No. 3 Regulations 1993 (SI 1993 No. 1679).

Persons who are not habitually resident in the United Kingdom, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands or the Irish Republic [effective from 1 August 1994]

Income-related Benefits Schemes (Miscellaneous Amendments) (No. 3) Regulations 1994 (SI 1994 No. 1807).

(b) The "actively seeking work" hardship provision.

Income Support (General) Amendment No.3 Regulations 1992 (SI 1992 No. 2804).

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(c) Increase in the maximum period of disqualification for voluntary unemployment from 6 to 13 weeks.

Social Security Act 1986 (Section 43) (Chapter 50).

Increase in the maximum period of disqualification for voluntary unemployment from 13 to 26 weeks.

Income Support (General) Amendment Regulations 1988 (SI 1988 No. 633).

The "actively seeking work" test. Income support at a reduced rate can be paid to avoid hardship.

Income Support (General) Amendment No 2 Regulations 1989 (SI 1989 No. 1323).

Reductions in income support for failure to attend or complete a Restart course—

Income Support (General and Transitional) Amendment Regulations 1990 (1990/2324).

Reduction in benefit equal to 20 per cent. of the income support adult personal allowance (over 25 rate) for 6 months; then 10 per cent. for a further 12 months where parents with care refuse to co-operate in seeking child support maintenance in cases where there is no risk of harm or undue distress occurring to them or any children living with them.

Child Support Act 1991 Sections 6 and 46, as amended by the Child Support (Maintenance Assessment Procedure) Regulations 1992, (SI 1992/1813).

Reduction of benefit for failure to co-operate in seeking child support maintenance also applies to:

Family credit

Family Credit (General) Regulations 1987 Reg 51A (SI 1987/1973) as amended by the Income-related Benefits Schemes (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 1993, (SI 1993/315)

and to disability working allowance:

The Disability Working Allowance (General) Regulations 1991 (SI 1991/2887) as amended by the Income-related Benefits Schemes (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 1993, (SI 1993/315).

Reductions in income support for failure to attend or complete a Jobplan workshop.

The Income Support (General) Regulations 1987 Regulation 21A, as amended by the Income-related Benefits Schemes (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 1993, (SI 1993/315).

Nurses' Pay Offers

Baroness Jeger asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which hospital trusts have not yet given nurses a pay rise; and whether they will fix an early deadline for settlement.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): Around 80 per cent. of trusts have made offers to their nursing staff. It is now for those staff or their representatives to pick up the offers locally. It is expected that the small number of trusts which have not yet made their offers known will do so shortly.

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