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Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Bassam of Brighton on 21 June (WA 88) concerning the House of Lords Appointments Commission, what is the annual breakdown of expenses incurred by the commission.[HL6609]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): We continuously monitor and assess the threat posed to our troops by insurgent activity in Afghanistan and Iraq, and this forms an integral part of our military planning. While it would not be appropriate to comment in detail on our assessment of, or response to, threats posed to our troops, the Government will ensure commanders have an appropriately robust force with which to conduct operations, equipped with a range of support equipment. Tactics, techniques and procedures appropriate for the operational task and environment are also in place and are adjusted as required.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): Administrative detainees are held in both Israeli Defence Force (IDF) and Israel Prisons Service (IPS) facilities. According to figures provided by the IDF to Israeli non-governmental organisations, the IDF was holding, as of 3 January 2006, 741 Palestinians in administrative detention. The IPS told our embassy in Tel Aviv that, as of May 2006, 617 administrative detainees were being held in IPS facilities.
According to the IPS, 6,223 security prisoners (those convicted by Israeli courts of terrorism-related crimes) were being held in IPS facilities in May 2006. A further 1,656 were being held awaiting trial. According to the IPS, security detainees are allowed family visits and are given medical and dental care. The International Committee of the Red Cross regularly visits IPS facilities and makes recommendations on conditions inside Israeli prisons to the Israeli authorities.
We remain concerned by Israels policy of administrative detention, particularly that of minors. We regularly raise our concerns with the IPS. We last raised the issue of Palestinian prisoners with the Israeli Ministry for Foreign Affairs on 15 June, and our ambassador in Tel Aviv last raised this with Israeli Prime Minister Olmert's special adviser on 22 March.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Triesman): My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary discussed the current situation in Gaza with Foreign Minister Livni on 25 June and we are in regular contact with the Israeli Government. Any military steps taken should avoid civilian casualties, abide by international law and observe the principle of proportionality.
I was very disturbed to learn of this serious terrorist attack at Sufa. I send my condolences to the families of those Israeli soldiers who have died. Such continued violence makes the prospect of a negotiated, peaceful resolution more distant.
Whether, as quartet participants, they have had discussions with the Government of the United States on the Government of Israel's decision not to follow the request to use diplomatic channels to resolve the latest military hostage crisis.[HL6667]
Lord Triesman: At the G8 Foreign Ministers meeting in Moscow on 29 June, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary discussed the current situation in Gaza with her US counterpart. The UK is indirectly a member of the quartet (EU, US, UN and Russia) and all quartet members have individually urged Israel to act with restraint. Our ambassador in Tel Aviv and consul general in Jerusalem stay in regular contact with their US counterparts.
What steps they intend to take to implement the seven-year plan aimed at increasing the number of counsellors available to support individuals who suffer from stress, as recommended in the report by the London School of Economics mental health group, The Depression Report: A New Deal for Depression and Anxiety Disorders.[HL6574]
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): We agree that stepped improvements in access to evidence-based psychological therapies should be available. Our programme, Increasing Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT), which we announced in May, is a key part of the Government's mental health programme to address this. The IAPT programme will define the best way to achieve these improvements over the next five to 10 years.
We have recently set up psychological therapy demonstration sites in Doncaster and Newham, to help test the extent to which increasing access to these therapies improves well-being, reduces worklessness and the number of people claiming incapacity benefit, and provides greater choices in treatment and core options for people with these conditions. The demonstration sites will help to clarify the number of staff, the skills set and the training needed to improve access to psychological therapies.
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): The Department of Health purchases supplies of the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine but the price is commercially confidential. The department does not purchase supplies of single MMR vaccine, and does not hold information on the cost of these products.
What discussions have taken place between the Department of Health and the British Academy of Audiology regarding the exclusion of direct audiology referrals from the 18-week waiting times target set out in Tackling hospital waiting: the 18 week patient pathway.[HL6681]
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): The Department of Health conducted a six-week listening exercise in autumn 2005 on Commissioning an 18 week patient pathway: proposed principles and definitionsa discussion document. We sought comments from the National Health Service, patient groups and professional bodies on a wide range of issues including shorter waiting times for audiology services. A response was received from the British Academy of Audiology.
Tackling hospital waiting: the 18 week patient pathwayan implementation framework, published in May 2006, makes clear that the 18-week target will focus on hospital pathways. Conditions, including audiological ones, which require referral to a medical consultant will be covered but services accessed directly from primary care will not. The British Academy of Audiology wrote to express concern about directly accessed audiology services. The department has made clear that reducing waiting times for directly accessed audiology services is important and that an action plan is being developed to improve access.
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): The Business Services Authority dental practice division provides primary care trusts with monthly returns on activity. Once sufficient treatments have been completed we will be able to assess activity. However, it will be some months before this is the case, particularly in the case of the more complex band 3 treatments.
Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Warner on 6 March (WA 115), when the negotiations between NHS employers and the British Medical Association's General Practitioners Committee for the general medical
10 July 2006 : Column WA94
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): NHS employers who managed the negotiations with the British Medical Association on behalf of the Department of Health are in the process of appointing an expert panel to inform negotiations. The result of the selection process for the independent panel will be announced soon, along with details of how the public and other interested groups can participate in the process in future years. Discussion with the BMA on the general medical services contract has been ongoing since summer 2005.
Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Warner on 6 March (WA 115), what evidence they plan to collect in order to assess the benefits to patients of the inclusion in the general medical services contract of eight points for identifying and recording obesity.[HL6768]
Lord Warner: The quality and outcomes framework for 2006-07 includes an indicator which rewards practices for maintaining an obesity register. The recording of body mass index for the register will take place in the practice as part of routine care. It is expected that this data will inform public health measures.
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): The September 2005 workforce census showed that there were 2,887 (1,913 full-time equivalent) qualified nurses working in the school nursing service in England, an increase of 478 (19.8 per cent) since 2004. Of these, 943 (665 full-time equivalent) have a post-registration school nursing qualification, an increase of 87 (10 per cent) since 2004.
The Department of Health, along with the Department for Education and Skills, is continuing to ensure that the profile of school nurses remains high nationally. In partnership, the departments have published Looking for a school nurse? and a school nurse practice development resource pack, which will support the expansion and development of the school nursing service.
Ministers and the Chief Nursing Officer continue to communicate the importance of school nurses to
10 July 2006 : Column WA95
On how many occasions the Prime Minister and officials from No. 10 Downing Street have used the scheme that enables government departments to offset the carbon impacts of their air travel; and what was (a) the purpose; (b) the destination; and (c) the cost on each occasion.[HL6498]
Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Prime Ministers Office is part of the Cabinet Office. The Cabinet Office is fully committed to the carbon offsetting of government air travel initiative and is participating in the Government Carbon Offsetting Fund (GCOF). The GCOF aims to fulfil the Prime Minister's commitment to carbon offset all official air travel in central government and will be available for all central government departments to offset emissions from official air travel in a simple and cost-effective manner, as well as ensuring high environmental integrity.
Whether they will take steps to reverse the trend of families refusing consent for organ donation, particularly in circumstances where the individuals concerned carried a donor card or had expressly indicated that they wanted to donate their organs; and [HL6588]
The Minister of State, Department of Health (Lord Warner): More than 13 million people have registered on the organ donor register (ODR), 23 per cent of the United Kingdom population. The Department of Health gives around £1 million yearly to National Health Service Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) to run the ODR and to promote transplantation. It also provides Section 64 grants to a number of charities to promote donation in particular parts of the community. Specific initiatives include funding through NHSBT to support hospital-based schemes, high profile media initiatives and partnership working
10 July 2006 : Column WA96
In April 2006, NHS Blood and Transplant published the results of its potential donor audit. It suggested that there may be greater opportunities to identify potential donors in intensive care units; and highlighted the high number of relativessome 40 per centwho refuse donation. We have asked officials to bring together a small group of key people to take stock of progress against Saving Lives Valuing DonorsA Transplant Framework for England, published in 2003; to identify current barriers to organ donation; to look at national and international experience; and to identify opportunities to increase donation rates within the current legal and regulatory framework.
The Human Tissue Act 2004, which is due to come into force on 1 September 2006, sets out the requirement for consent to be obtained to use human organs and tissue whether from the living or after death. It will make clear that relatives have no right of veto over the deceased's wish to donate, which should assist in reducing the current relatives refusal rate. We are not convinced that a policy of presumed consent would be effective in increasing the number of organs available for transplantation or that there is overwhelming public support for a presumed consent or opt-out scheme. A system of presumed consent would be entirely contrary to principles in the Human Tissue Act.
What plans they have for the disposal of the Canberra PR9 aircraft that retired from active Royal Air Force service on 24 June; and whether they intend to provide the necessary support, financial or otherwise, to enable at least one of the aircraft to be kept in an airworthy condition.[HL6693]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Drayson): The out-of-service date for the RAF's three Canberra PR9 aircraft is 31 July 2006. The aircraft are being marketed for sale by the Disposal Services Agency. There are no plans to provide support to any of these aircraft once they have been retired from RAF service.
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