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Alzheimer's Disease: Treatment with Aricept

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Jay of Paddington: The Standing Medical Advisory Committee is currently considering the benefits of the drug Aricept and is preparing guidance for clinicians in the National Health Service. They endorsed an interim statement from the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Health authorities and clinicians already have access to a number of sources of information on Aricept, on which they can make decisions about the use of this drug.

Information on the number of patients currently receiving Aricept is not available since data cover only the number of prescriptions dispensed in community pharmacies. The latest data show a cost of £240,000 to the NHS in England for those prescriptions dispensed since the drug was licensed, from April to September 1997. Information on all those health authorities which currently allow prescription of the drug is not available. The NHS Executive has received a number of representations regarding the availability of donepezil, including some from the Alzheimer's Disease Society.

Prescribing and Age Discrimination

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are satisfied that there is no discrimination between treatments for conditions which affect predominantly those under 65, and those which affect predominantly those over 65, within health authority guidelines on the prescription of medicines; and, if examples of discrimination are brought to their attention, what action they can take.[HL520]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: Under the National Health Service, patients should receive the medication they need, regardless of their age. If a patient thinks he or she is being denied treatment because of a health authority policy, they should, in the first instance, raise this with the health authority concerned.

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Drugs and Driving

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will announce the latest available figures from the survey the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions is conducting into the incidence of drugs in fatal road accident victims.[HL539]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): The survey, over a three-year period, started in October 1996. A copy of the department's report on the interim results, to 7 January 1998, has today been placed in the Library.

It is too early to draw firm conclusions from the findings, although general trends so far remain very consistent. Fuller results will be needed before the Government can consider and propose any measures that may appear to be necessary. Further findings will be published when we can reach a firm view.

Screening devices which may be suitable for detecting the presence of drugs in motorists are to be trialled by four police forces for a short period from mid-March. The trials are intended to establish whether the screening devices are sufficiently robust and practical for the conditions likely to be encountered at the roadside--not to test for the presence of drugs.

Traffic police from the Cleveland, Lancashire, Strathclyde and Sussex forces will ask motorists to volunteer to be tested--the police have no power to require anyone to undertake such a screening test. Volunteers' names or their car registrations will not be recorded. Police will not test those who are obviously impaired through alcohol or drugs--they will be dealt with using existing powers.

Mrs. Blair: Special Adviser

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In what way the public interest was advanced by the presence of the partner of his press secretary on the Prime Minister's visit to Washington.[HL504]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The special adviser who provides support and assistance to the Prime Minister's wife in respect of her official duties accompanied Mrs. Blair on the trip to Washington. This is in line with arrangements under the last administration, where a non-career civil servant undertook such a role on overseas visits.

Ministerial Sub-Committee on Women's Issues

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many times the Ministerial Sub-Committee on Women's Issues has met; and what was the date of its last meeting.[HL418]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey: In accordance with long-standing practice, information about the proceedings of the Cabinet and Cabinet committees is not made public.

Greenwich Theatre

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they have received on the special importance of the Greenwich Theatre to disabled people (because of its ease of access); and what action is being taken to safeguard its future.[HL414]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government have received over 500 expressions of support for the Greenwich Theatre, including a small number specifically commenting on the special importance of the theatre for the physically disabled, because of its ease of access.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport channels its funding of the arts through the Arts Council and the 10 Regional Arts Boards, in this case the London Arts Board. The future of the theatre is a matter for the theatre's board, in conjunction with its funding partners.

Overseas Trade Fairs: Support

Lord Ewing of Kirkford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will announce support for any more trade fairs abroad in the year ending 31 March 1999.[HL575]

The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Clinton-Davis): My right honourable friend the President of the Board of Trade announced in September the first parts of our programmes for supporting trade fairs, seminars and missions abroad.

I am pleased to announce support in principle for another 146 trade fairs and 151 outward missions in the period up to 31 March 1999.

I will place lists of the additional events in the Library of the House and inform organisations that bid for support, Business Links and recipients of my department's overseas trade magazine.

Millennium Bug

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What estimate they have made of the cost of eliminating the millennium computer bug in Britain; and how much of the total cost will fall on the public sector.[HL311]

Lord Clinton-Davis: The cost for the private sector will depend on many factors, including the extent of the problem, the pressure placed upon businesses by their suppliers and customers, the extent to which they then decide to minimise their risk, the increasing cost of

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support and the speed with which they respond. The cost for tackling central government systems has been estimated at £370 million.

ECGD: Review

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps are being taken to consult exporters about the Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD) arrangements for providing support for capital goods and projects exports.[HL538]

Lord Clinton-Davis: I am writing today to leading members of the exporting and financial community for their views on the current arrangements and on options for change in the future. Copies of the consultation paper are being placed in the Library of the House and are publicly available from ECGD on request. The document will also be available on the ECGD internet site.

The consultation paper reviews market development over the past five years and without seeking to prejudge the outcome asks whether changes to the UK system might now serve the interests of the exporter and the taxpayer more effectively.

I am asking for responses by 10 April so that the Government can decide on what should succeed ECGD's current Fixed Rate Export Finance (FREF) scheme, which is scheduled to expire at the end of June, and enter into the necessary negotiations.

I hope the consultation document will stimulate serious debate about the best approach for delivering this Government's objective of ensuring that UK capital goods and project exporters have access to competitive finance at acceptable public expenditure cost.

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