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11 Jan 1996 : Column WA33

Written Answers

Thursday, 11th January 1996.

Arable Area Payments Scheme

Lord Desai asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which Ministers of the Crown were in receipt of set-aside payments during the financial year 1994-95 and in what amounts.

Lord Lucas: Claimants are given an undertaking that all information regarding their claims under the arable area payments scheme is held in confidence.

Human Suspected Adverse Reactions to Veterinary Medicines: Report

Lord Swinfen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When the 1994 Report of the Appraisal Panel for Human Suspected Adverse Reactions to Veterinary Medicines will be published.

Lord Lucas: My honourable friend (Mrs. Browning) announced yesterday that this report has been published. It sets out the conclusions of the appraisal panel drawn from the 144 human suspected adverse reaction reports which it considered during 1994. Of these, 99 related to organophosphorus (OP) sheep dips and 45 to other veterinary medicines including mineral-oil based vaccines, flea collars and pour on products for dogs and cats. They were mainly reports received since December 1990, 20 per cent. of which were regarded as historical reports where the exposure and symptoms had occurred more than a year before the reports were received.

In many cases, the panel had inadequate information on which to make its assessment and its conclusions are based on a balance of evidence. They should not be considered to be a definitive clinical diagnosis. Of the 99 reports related to OP sheep dips, one acute reaction was assessed as Category 1 (clinical signs and symptoms typical of exposure to OP sheep dips combined with corroborating medical evidence), the first time the panel has classified a case in this category. The Veterinary Products Committee advised, when considering the report, that such a conclusion is not unexpected, since it is known that exposure to organophosphates can result in acute symptoms. It is for this reason that advice aimed at minimising operator exposure is provided on product labels and in the "Sheep dipping" booklet.

Copies of the report have been placed in the Library of the House.

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Women Prisoners: Handcuffing Directive

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Blatch on 4 December 1995 (H.L. Deb., col. WA 66), whether governors have discretion not to use handcuffs on women prisoners while they are suckling their infant children; and if not, why not.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Blatch): Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the temporary Director General of the Prison Service, who has been asked to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Lester of Herne Hill from the Director of Services of the Prison Service, Mr. A. J. Butler, dated 11/1/96.

Baroness Blatch has asked me, in the absence of the Director General from the office, to reply to your recent Question about whether governors have discretion not to use handcuffs on women prisoners while they are suckling their infant children.

Following the publicity about the handcuffing of women during labour, a note was sent to governors of prisons with mother and baby units clarifying the position on handcuffing of women in labour. The directive states that once the woman has been confirmed as being in labour at the hospital all restraints are to be removed. No restraints should be applied until the baby has been delivered and the mother has finished nursing the baby.

After that, restraints will still not be applied unless the governor considers it necessary on security grounds. Medical, surgical or clinical reasons will often indicate that restraints should not be used.

The Director General has agreed to meet with the President of the Royal College of Midwives, to discuss this further and to try to resolve any difficulties.

Pensions after Divorce: Assumptions

Baroness Hollis of Heigham asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) what the estimated cost to the unfunded public service pension schemes would be if pensions could be split after divorce;

    (b) which schemes are involved;

    (c) how this figure has been calculated, including the assumptions made; and

    (d) how this cost would be distributed on a yearly basis up to 2020.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): The effects on the costs for unfunded public service schemes would depend on the specific arrangements for splitting pensions on divorce. If pensions were split with the non-member taking a transfer value, this would bring forward benefit and PSBR costs (see also below). The main schemes affected are those covering the NHS, teachers, civil servants, the armed forces

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and police and fire services, but a number of smaller schemes are also affected.

The broad estimates below, produced by the Government Actuary's Department, assume splitting of accrued pension rights equally in all new divorce cases involving current (but not former) employees who are members of these schemes. They also assume divorce rates by age derived from information for the three years 1991 to 1993. The sums brought forward could add up to £½ billion annually to scheme benefit and PSBR costs in the early years gradually reducing to something less than £50 million by 2020 (at constant prices).

Marriage: Working Party

Lord Brougham and Vaux asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made by the interdepartmental working party on marriage.

The Lord Chancellor (Lord Mackay of Clashfern): The interdepartmental working party on marriage is working on a summary of its findings so far. It hopes to hold a seminar for interested service providers and researchers in February or March this year to discuss these findings before finalising them. The working party is grateful to all those groups who have responded so fully and promptly to its questionnaire.

The working party has given a preliminary indication of the types of initiatives at which it believes resources may need to be targeted. These are:

marriage preparation projects;

encouraging people to access services earlier before a problem becomes a crisis;

encouraging innovation as one service will not suit the needs of every person seeking help--there needs to be variety; and

looking at whether some families have more specific needs, for example it is not clear whether the needs of stepfamilies and families from ethnic minorities are being met at present.

The Government intend to work with organisations which seek to support marriage in examining the potential of these initiatives. Following consultation with these organisations at the planned seminar, the

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Government will consider bids for the funding of pilot projects in areas with particular potential for reducing the incidence and costs of marriage breakdown. The primary purpose of this exercise will be to evaluate the effectiveness and value for money of potential initiatives, particularly in the area of marriage preparation and new types of service provision. Organisations will need to specify how they will demonstrate the effectiveness and value for money of their service in preparing any such bids.

UK Air Safety: Regulations

The Earl of Munster asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they take to ensure that all aircraft leaving the UK comply with UK safety regulations, despite fifth freedom licences.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): Under Articles 102 and 104 of the Air Navigation (No. 2) Order 1995, any non EEA operator wishing to perform a public transport flight to or from the United Kingdom must obtain a permit from the Secretary of State for Transport. Before approving any such flights, the airline must meet my department's documentary criteria for the type of flight concerned. These criteria include confirmation from the state of registry as to the airworthiness of the aircraft and that the operations of the aircraft will be in accordance with international safety standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). In cases where my department has any doubts about safety standards, consideration of the applications is deferred until these doubts have been resolved.

However, concern has been expressed as to whether ICAO safety standards are being uniformly applied.

I therefore announced on 10 January a number of new measures designed to increase the oversight of safety standards of foreign aircraft operating to the UK. These measures will include increased surveillance and participation by the UK in new international safety procedures which ICAO will be introducing to monitor member states' adherence to ICAO safety standards.

My department is also consulting industry and users about possible amendments to policies affecting fifth freedom charter flights by foreign operators. This consultation is taking relevant safety requirements into account.

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