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8 Jul 1997 : Column WA65
Written Answers

Tuesday, 8th July 1997.

Questions for Written Answer

Lord Hill-Norton asked the Leader of the House:

The Lord Privy Seal (Lord Richard): The information requested is as follows:

Standards in Public Life: Third Report

Lord Gladwin of Clee asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Richard: The Third Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, under the chairmanship of Lord Nolan, is being published today as Command Paper 3702. I am arranging for copies to be placed in the Vote Office and the Library of the House.

We are committed to ensuring the highest standards in public life in this country. I am grateful to Lord Nolan and his colleagues for the significant contribution that they continue to make towards improving the standards of conduct throughout the public sector. Their Third Report covers local government in England, Scotland and Wales.

The committee received wide-ranging written submissions, and heard extensive oral evidence, in open proceedings. It has concluded that there are "an enormous number of dedicated and hard working people" in local government. It has, however, identified that there is a lack of clarity about rules of expectation of proper behaviour, which it believes is because the responsibility for the maintenance of standards has moved away from local government.

The committee is, therefore, proposing that in the new climate of improved relations between central and local government, a new start should now be made on building an ethical framework for local government. This would take the best of what already exists, but place responsibility with local government itself. In this context the committee has unanimously made some 40
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detailed recommendations. These, if implemented, would result in a radical restructuring of the ethical framework in which local authorities—their members and officers—operate.

I welcome the committee's careful examination and analysis of conduct—both of councillors and officers—in local authorities. Its confirmation of the strengths of local government in Great Britain is reassuring, and demonstrates that there is a firm foundation on which we can build. We entirely accept the committee's conclusion that now is the time to make a new start on the ethical framework for local government.

Accordingly, we shall now be consulting widely on the committee's specific recommendations, including with the Local Government Association, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, the Welsh Local Government Association, the Audit Commission of England and Wales, and the Scottish Accounts Commission. In parallel with this consultation, the Nolan Committee will be consulting on a proposal for a new statutory offence of misuse of public office, which would apply across the public sector, including local government. Copies of the committee's consultation paper are available with the Report.

Our intention is to work in partnership with local government to establish a framework for local authorities guaranteeing the highest standards of conduct. Such a framework will be central to achieving our manifesto aim of more independent but accountable local government.

General Practitioner Visits

Lord Milverton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): The comprehensive spending review will review all aspects of Government spending in the context of the Government's election manifesto commitment, "If you are ill or injured there will be a National Health Service there to help; and access to it will be based on need and need alone—not on your ability to pay, or on who your general practitioner happens to be or where you live."

Cancer Surgery

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Jay of Paddington: We are currently looking with the National Health Service at the implementation, including the information requirements, of our commitment to end waiting times for all cancer treatment.
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Tobacco Advertising

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The Smee report, published in 1992, states that in other countries, "the banning of advertising was followed by a fall in smoking on a scale which cannot reasonably be attributed to other factors". A copy of the report is available in the Library.

The Government recognise that controlling smoking prevalence requires a wide range of measures if it is to have a lasting impact and it will not, therefore, be possible to identify the influence of the ban alone in the package of measures which will be employed here.

Tree Planting

The Earl of Courtown asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): We wish to see an increase in the area of woodland in Britain, not only on Forestry Commission land but also on privately owned land. We have no plans to set specific annual targets.

Gulf War Illness: Research

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): The new research programme which was announced last month will look at the possible health effects of having multiple vaccinations and taking other medication concurrently. The results of this work will help address the concerns of veterans about the use of medical countermeasures during the Gulf War, as well as inform the department's policy on the future use of such countermeasures. It is intended that the new research will be subject to appropriate independent
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scrutiny at every stage and that it will be a rigorous programme of work, scientifically valid in its own right.

While the Medical Research Council has not formally recommended this programme of research, Her Majesty's Government is liaising closely with the MRC to ensure that the new programme is scientifically sound and compatible with the MoD-funded epidemiological studies already under way.

Tactical Missile Defence Deployment by NATO Members

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Gilbert: The deployment of a national tactical missile defence capability for the protection of national personnel or assets would be a matter for the nation concerned, in consultation with the receiving nation, and would not require the agreement of NATO members. National forces or capabilities deployed under NATO command would be subject to Alliance agreement under established procedures.

Income Tax

Baroness Miller of Hendon asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The standard rate of income tax was abolished in 1973. The estimated full year cost of decreasing the basic rate of income tax by 1p would be £1.7 billion at 1997–98 income levels.

Government Borrowing

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government's fiscal rules are set out in the Financial Statement and Budget Report, July 1997, along with forecasts for the economy and for the public finances. The Treasury's assessment is that the output gap is close to zero, and there is a risk that output could already be above trend. The Government's deficit reduction plan means that
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public sector borrowing falls below investment next year and each year thereafter, thereby meeting the golden rule.

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