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Firearms Licensing: Medical Information

Lord Burton asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): Correspondence between the Home Office and other bodies is not as a matter of course placed in the Library, and in this case we have no plans to do so.

Service Personnel: Hearing Tests

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): All three Services operate Hearing Conservation Programmes directed primarily at avoidance of excessive noise exposure and at hearing protection where avoidance is not possible. Hearing tests are conducted at entry into the Armed Forces and on release, and during service at specified intervals or when clinically indicated. The NHS is responsible for the medical care of Service personnel after they leave the Armed Forces.

Gulf War Service Personnel: Hearing Tests

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Gilbert: Both UK and US Service personnel undergo regular medical examinations, which include hearing tests. Some UK and US personnel would, therefore, have been due to undergo such routine tests shortly after returning from the Gulf. In addition, both UK and US Service personnel who were discharged from the Armed Forces, or demobilised back into the Reserve Forces, shortly after returning from Gulf service should have received medical examinations, including hearing tests, as part of standard discharge/demobilisation procedures. We are, though, aware that a small number of UK reserve personnel did not receive hearing tests on demobilisation because of a lack of audiometry equipment in theatre.

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We are not aware of any special programme of hearing tests being carried out amongst US Service personnel returning from the Gulf. Two studies were undertaken by the British Army to compare hearing levels before and after Operation Granby: one study examined 258 soldiers from an infantry regiment equipped with Warrior Personnel Carriers, and the other examined 548 soldiers from an armoured regiment equipped with Challenger tanks. The results did show some deterioration in hearing levels in some personnel.

Service Personnel: Noise and Hearing Research

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What primary research has been done for active service personnel on the long-term impact of noise on their hearing, for example tinnitus and accelerated hearing loss.[HL2034]

Lord Gilbert: No primary research has been conducted by the Ministry of Defence in recent years. The results of such research as is undertaken elsewhere are monitored in the open literature and through international collaboration, in particular through the appropriate NATO research study group. Applied research has been, and is, regularly conducted into the sources of noise, into their suppression and into hearing protection.

Agriculture Council, 25-26 May

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 25 to 26 May.[HL2058]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food chaired a meeting of the European Union Agriculture Council in Brussels on 25 and 26 May. I represented the United Kingdom, and my noble friend Lord Sewel, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Scottish Office, was also present.

The principal business of the Council was to take stock of progress in negotiations on the Commission's proposals for CAP reform made in the framework of Agenda 2000. Those negotiations were launched at a special meeting of the Council which my right honourable friend the Minister chaired on 31 March 1998, and have continued at an intensive pace at expert level since then. In the Council, EU Ministers recognised the excellent start which had been made to this work, and discussed draft conclusions which he circulated as Presidency summarising the work to date, identifying the principal issues central to the ongoing negotiation, and committing the Council to continuing its intensive work on the Agenda 2000 proposals from now on.

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We are pleased to say that the Council was able to give unanimous approval to those conclusions, which will now be submitted to Foreign Ministers for inclusion in the report to the Heads of Government meeting in Cardiff on 15-16 June. The Agriculture Council will then continue its discussions of Agenda 2000 at its July meeting.

The Council also debated the Commission's proposal on reform of the EU olive oil regime, and noted the principal questions remaining to be resolved on that proposal. My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food undertook to continue work on the proposal in the hope of finding a basis of agreement at the Council in June.

The Council had a presentation from the Commission of its proposals for a decision on an EU/Canada veterinary agreement. The Council also reached agreement by qualified majority on a regulation setting out detailed rules for genetically modified soya and maize intended for sale to the final consumer; Italy, Sweden and Denmark voted against.

Incontinence Services, Scotland

Lord Selkirk of Douglas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will provide details of the costs which health boards in Scotland incur in making incontinence products available direct to patients.[HL2124]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): The costs incurred by health boards in respect of incontinence products prescribed to patients by GPs and Nurse Prescribers in the financial year 1997-98 are shown in the table below.

The costs and fees shown include the cost of the products dispensed, dispensing fees paid to community pharmacists and dispensing doctors, and on-costs paid to appliance suppliers.

Health BoardCosts & Fees £
Argyll & Clyde590,979
Ayrshire & Arran637,334
Dumfries & Galloway200,594
Forth Valley340,906
Greater Glasgow1,193,308
Western Isles71,433
Scotland Total7,408,481

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Continence: Policy

Lord Selkirk of Douglas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are opposed to any reduction in care for incontinent patients; and whether they would support improvements in services to incontinent patients.[HL2123]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): The Government recognise the major impact that incontinence can have on people's lives.

The National Health Service Executive is conducting a review of continence policy to ensure that the most appropriate and effective continence services are being planned and delivered. This review will include the views of key patient representative groups, voluntary and professional organisations. The aim is to issue further guidance on continence services based on the conclusions of the review once it has been completed.

NHS Trusts: Depreciation Requirements

Lord Walton of Detchant asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Why they require health trusts to provide in their accounts for depreciation of their fixed assets and to pay the Government interest on that part of them notionally financed by "public dividend capital"; and whether:

    (a) without this requirement Oxfordshire Community Health Trust's most recently published accounts (1996-97) would show a surplus of £1.5 million; and

    (b) this requirement has led to the trust's proposal to close two community hospitals and implement an overall reduction of between 15 and 20 per cent. in community hospital beds in the county.[HL2071]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: National Health Service trusts are required to provide in their accounts for depreciation and to pay debt remuneration in order to recognise the cost to them of the capital they employ.

They are funded for these costs through their contracts with NHS purchasers.

The accounts for 1996-97 show that Oxfordshire Community Health Trust actually had a surplus of £332,000. The figure for the public dividend capital was £359,000. Other interest payments on government borrowing amounted to £1,073,000, but this was not public dividend capital.

It should be noted that the public dividend capital is not money which is returned to Her Majesty's Treasury. The money is kept within the NHS and every trust is treated similarly. In those circumstances the effect on services is negligible.

The decision to consult on the closure of community hospitals in the west of Oxfordshire is not linked to these figures.

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