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Ambulance Service Staff: Early Retirement

Viscount Brentford asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Jay of Paddington: Responsibility for this matter has been delegated to the National Health Service Pensions Agency under the Chief Executive, Mr. A. F. Cowan. I have asked him to write to the noble Viscount.

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Letter to Viscount Brentford from the Chief Executive of the National Health Service Pensions Agency, Mr. A. F. Cowan, dated 14 July 1998.

As Chief Executive of the NHS Pensions Agency, I have been asked to reply to your parliamentary Question regarding early retirement on medical grounds of ambulance service personnel.

We only have the information in the format you request from 28 May 1997 to 3 July 1998. I must emphasise that the information we have is only for ambulance staff who opted to join the NHS Pension Scheme and covers all categories of employment.

From the data available, 476 people (2.82%) of ambulance service staff under the age of 65 retired for medical reasons during this period.

E.coli 0157

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Public Health Laboratory Service's Laboratory of Enteric Pathogens routinely carries out molecular discrimination in respect of sporadic cases of E.coli 0157 infection; and, if not, why not.[HL2624]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The Public Health Laboratory Service's Laboratory of Enteric Pathogens (LEP) does not routinely carry out tests for the molecular discrimination of isolates of Escherichia coli 0157 from sporadic cases of infection. Molecular typing is used for: all fatal cases; clusters of cases notified to the LEP even in the absence of evidence of an outbreak; apparent clusters of cases identified from the LEP typing data--for example, clusters of unusual phage types; cases with known or suspected contact with animals or where there appears to be a link with a particular food; and other cases as required--for example, possible laboratory acquired infections.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will issue an instruction to all clinical laboratories to use immunomagnetic separation (Dynabead) tests rather than direct plating to detect E.coli 0157 in samples.[HL2625]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: Decisions on the testing of clinical specimens are a matter for local laboratory managers. Routine testing of clinical specimens using immunomagnetic separation is unnecessary as this procedure provides only a marginal improvement in detection of Escherichia coli 0157.

Duckett's Cheese

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will place in the Library of the House a copy of the epidemiology report, excluding matters relating to patient confidentiality where appropriate, relating to the case of Duckett's cheese.[HL2626]

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Baroness Jay of Paddington: The report is being drafted by the local Outbreak Control Team with assistance from the Public Health Laboratory Service and will be available shortly. Copies will be placed in the Library.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will provide a copy of the documentary evidence to support the contention that a separate isolate from a later batch sample of Duckett's cheese was detected.[HL2627]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: In the absence of documentary evidence, Ducketts advised Sedgemoor District Council verbally that one Escherichia coli 0157 positive sample related to cheese produced in the last week of April. For the cheese in question, Mendip District Council had established a delivery date to the retailer of 30 April. This is also the purchase date shown on the microbiological examination report prepared by the Public Health Laboratory Service, Exeter.

Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs

Lord Higgins asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether their medical advisers take the view that those taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) should do so while standing up and that a patient should not lie flat for half-an-hour afterwards; and, if so, whether they will ensure that NHS doctors give appropriate advice and that manufacturers of NSAIDs include such advice in leaflets issued with such drugs.[HL2584]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: No such advice is currently in the product information for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or in the relevant section of the British National Formulary. Some patient information leaflets advise that the medicine should be taken with food or milk. We are not aware of data to suggest that it would be beneficial for NSAIDS to be taken in the manner described.

Gulf War Veterans: Inquiry Request

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What representations they have had concerning the resolution on Gulf War illnesses approved by this year's annual conference of the Royal British Legion; what reply they are sending; and what action they propose to take on its call for a public inquiry.[HL2350]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): The Prime Minister has recently received a letter from the Secretary General of the Royal British Legion concerning Gulf veterans' illnesses, which includes a call for a public inquiry. In addition, the Prime Minister has received a petition, delivered to No. 10 Downing Street by representatives of the

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National Gulf Veterans and Families Association on Tuesday 7 July, which also calls for a public inquiry. The Government are considering the matter carefully and will respond formally to both organisations shortly.

Gulf Veterans' Illness Unit:Replies to Questions

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the delays in providing Written Answers to Questions, and replies to letters from Members of Parliament and the public, by the Ministry of Defence would be reduced by the appointment of additional staff to the Gulf War illness unit; and, if so, whether they would make the necessary appointments.[HL2334]

Lord Gilbert: The Government have made it clear that they are committed to addressing Gulf veterans' concerns, and they have devoted significant resources to ensuring that questions from the veterans, or those asked on their behalf, are properly researched and considered.

In preparing their answers on this issue, the Government seek to be as informative as possible and have waived the normal practice of declining to answer questions where the relevant information is not held centrally, or where to do so would require disproportionate costs to be incurred. The MoD Gulf Veterans' Illness Unit has been allocated the necessary resources, including 35 staff, to deal with questions and letters from MPs and the public, and to deal with its other roles. Whenever the preparation of a response to a question or letter requires more time, we let the enquirer know that further work is needed.

The Government are determined that responses should be as thorough as possible, and aim to reply to questions and letters as expeditiously as possible.

Independent Commission on theVoting System

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What consideration they gave to involvement in organisations such as Emily's List before appointing members of the Independent Commission on Electoral Reform; and how support for discriminatory political funding can be compatible with the objectives of the commission.[HL2681]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The members of the Independent Commission on the Voting System were selected on the basis of their experience and expertise and to represent a broad spectrum of political views.

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The Independent Commission on the Voting System has clear terms of reference. The question of political funding is being considered separately by the Committee on Standards in Public Life chaired by the noble Lord, Lord Neill of Bladon.

Police Numbers

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the total number of (a) constables and (b) police officers in each police force in England and Wales.[HL2796]

Lord Williams of Mostyn: Provisional figures show that at 31 March 1998 there were 126,944 police officers (down 214 from March 1997) in England and Wales, including 98,387 constables (up 255 from March 1997).

The number of constables and the number of officers in each force is shown in the tables. In addition, there are 2,058 officers on secondments to the National Crime Squad and Central Services.

Change in strength between March 1997 and March 1998

March 1997March 1998Increase/ decrease
Avon & Somerset2,988.82,975.9-12.9
City of London 858.9824.9-34.0
Devon & Cornwall2,864.52,961.597.0
Greater Manchester6,921.66,948.727.1
Metropolitan Police26,677.326,192.7-484.6
North Wales1,369.01,396.027.0
North Yorkshire1,337.61,367.229.6
South Wales2,975.92,986.210.3
South Yorkshire3,158.73,182.023.3
Thames Valley3,695.03,775.580.5
West Mercia2,040.22,011.8-28.4
West Midlands7,112.77,156.543.8
West Yorkshire5,208.85,154.7-54.1

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Change in constable strength between March 1997 and March 1998

March 1997March 1998Increase/ decrease
Avon & Somerset2,314.82,307.9-6.9
City of London655.9634.1-21.8
Devon & Cornwall2,233.52,322.989.4
Greater Manchester5,341.95,415.573.6
Metropolitan Police20,671.420,252.6-418.8
North Wales1,024.01,054.030.0
North Yorkshire1,017.61,052.835.2
South Wales2,259.92,309.249.3
South Yorkshire2,435.72,459.023.3
Thames Valley2,858.02,937.379.3
West Mercia1,563.11,553.9-9.2
West Midlands5,636.45,731.194.7
West Yorkshire4,105.94,068.7-37.2

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