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Medicines Control Agency: Annual Report

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): We have received the report and copies have today been laid before both Houses of Parliament in accordance with the requirements of section 5(2) and 5(3) of the Exchequer and Audit Departments Act 1921. Copies have also been placed in the Library.

NHS Estates Executive Agency: Annual Report

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Jay of Paddington: We have received the report and copies have today been laid before both Houses of Parliament in accordance with section 5 of the Exchequer and Audit Departments Act 1921. Copies have also been placed in the Library.

Cancer Research: Government Funding

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What monies they make available for the funding of bids from researchers into the causes and treatment of cancers; what criteria inform their decisions about such funding; and whether the total sum available in 1997-98 will be increased over the next three years; and[HL2800]

    Why their expenditure on Government-funded research into liver cancer was reduced from £29,000 in 1996-97 to nil in 1997-98; and[HL2803]

    What improvements they will be seeking over the next three years in research into the causes and the treatment of prostate cancer and liver cancer.[HL2804]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The Medical Research Council (MRC) is the main agency through which the Government support biomedical research, receiving its grant-in-aid from the Office of Science and Technology, which is part of the Department of Trade and Industry. The Council is an independent body deciding what research to support on its own expert judgment.

Cancer research is one of the MRC's key areas, and it spends some £13 million each year on studies specifically addressing cancer.

There are no pre-determined budgets for Department of Health and National Health Service Research and Development into any specific cancer; decisions on proposals from researchers are made on the merits of the work proposed. The fluctuation in spend stems from the cycle of commissioning, (as projects and programmes start and finish), rather than any policy to change funding levels.

The Research and Development Directorate of the Department of Health is establishing expert groups to consider the research agenda in key areas, including cancer. Professor Michael Clarke (University of Leicester) is leading this work.

The NHS Health Technology Assessment Programme will be funding a study looking at the feasibility of conducting a multicentre randomised trial of treatment for localised prostate cancer; early detection, recruitment strategies and a pilot study. This research is due to commence on 1 October 1998 and will cost £201,914.

Department of Social Security: Reviews

Baroness Maddock asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many reviews currently being undertaken by the Department of Social Security will be published during the parliamentary Summer Recess.[HL2783]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): The review of the Women's National Commission by a government review group led by the Minister for Women is expected to report in the autumn, although no publication date has yet been set.

Empty Homes

Baroness Pitkeathley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the Home Office and the Ministry of Defence performed against last year's targets for reducing empty government homes; and what new targets have been set for 1998-99.[HL3036]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): Details of achievement against targets for 1997-98, and new targets for 1998-99 are below.

We are disappointed to have to report that despite considerable effort on the part of the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR), the Ministry of Defence and the Home Office the overall

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number of empty homes held by the Government has shown a small rise between 1 April 1997 and 1 April 1998. This does however mask a 19 per cent. fall in the number of empty homes held by the Home Office and the success of the Ministry of Defence in exceeding its target over the period. Both the DETR and the Ministry of Defence have faced difficulties in responding to need with uncertainties over the Strategic Defence Review and the ongoing review of road schemes. In the case of the Highways Agency up to 50 per cent. of its vacant properties were in the process of being sold when the figures were collected.

We are concerned by the number of properties that remain vacant--we simply cannot afford to have substantial numbers of Government-owned homes lying empty and we will be working closely with colleagues to ensure that the targets set for the next year are met. These targets for 1 April 1999 all represent a significant improvement over last year's achievements and reflect realistic opportunities for reducing the numbers of vacant properties.

Departments continue to liaise with the Empty Homes Agency and other interested parties to investigate ways of bringing properties back into productive housing use and we hope next year's figures will reflect our continued efforts to improve the Government's own record.

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Table to show Annual Targets for 1998-99 and Performance Figures for 1997-98 for the Disposal of Government Empty Homes

Total stock at 1.4.98Total empty stock at 1.4.97Total empty stock at 1.4.98Target for % empty at 1.4.98Achievement against targetTarget for % empty at 1.4.99Target for % habitable homes empty more than 6 months at 1.4.98Achievement against target Target for % habitable homes empty for more than 6 months at 1.4.99Action being taken to dispose of homes empty more than 6 months
Home Office3,189268217<5%6.8%<5%<1%1.2% (37)<1%26 Prison Quarters properties retained on security grounds and for chaplains; 5 on the market; 2 have serious repair problems; 1 now available following police operation; 1 adjoins an operational police office; 1 is to be offered to a housing association for short-term let; and 1 is in need of renovation.
Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions2,473690692<18%28%<18%<9%10.5% (262)<7%203 properties either in process of being marketed for sales or sales agreed and proceeding towards completion; 3 due for auction, 7 sales deferred to assess development potential; and 49 being let through managing agents.
Ministry of Defence64,23813,14213,225To dispose of 1,000 empty homes 1,562To dispose of 1,200 empty homes


1. Properties that are "habitable" include all properties except:

(a) derelict properties that await demolition (e.g. to make way for road schemes);

(b) those that are expected to be demolished in the near future where the expenditure required to make them habitable would be disproportionate to their expected life (e.g. where substantial investment would be required to connect essential services such as water, sewage or electricity);

(c) those that cannot be made accessible (e.g. due to adjacent construction works).

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Small Businesses: Environmental Performance

Baroness Pitkeathley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they are taking to improve the environmental performance of small businesses.[HL3037]

Baroness Hayman: The Government is to revamp its support to small businesses to help them improve their energy efficiency and environmental performance. The Energy Efficiency Best Practice Programme has an established reputation for helping businesses to improve their energy efficiency. The Programme is currently stimulating savings of around £500m each year across the economy. We now want to make the benefits of this programme more readily available to small and medium sized businesses by building up a network of locally based consultants who will be accessed through a freephone hotline.

These new arrangements, which replace the smaller SCEEMAS programme which has had a very disappointing take up, will be developed jointly with the Government Offices in the Regions and with local businesses and business support agencies at a cost of some £2m pa.

Businesses value authoritative advice that takes account of local needs and the EEBPP will also look at ways of working with Government Offices and local providers of advice to establish a more coherent programme of local support, providing small businesses with access to a greater range of local specialist advice services. The existing EEBPP energy helpline is to be improved to help small businesses access the information on energy efficiency they need. This will include the introduction of a new freephone helpline.

The new arrangements will help bring energy efficiency advice on to the same footing as that delivered through the successful helpline and consultancy advice service run via the joint DTI/DETR Environmental Technology Best Practice Programme. When a small business wants to go green, it's important that the Government is there to help. This is part of our continuing efforts to rationalise the Government's support to businesses on energy and environmental performance via the Government Offices in the Regions and other organisations such as the Energy Saving Trust, Business Links, Training Enterprise Councils and local authorities, in providing a more effective support.

For this reason we are going to phase out SCEEMAS grants as from 31 August 1998, which will be the deadline for all first time applications, and to terminate the scheme at the end of January 1999, the deadline for all claims. The resources from SCEEMAS will be diverted to contribute to the development of a co-ordinated network of energy efficiency advice underpinned by the EEBPP and designed to be complementary with other local providers.

Further details of the developments to the Energy Efficiency Best Practice Programme, including the pilot phase of the new service to SMEs, are to be announced separately.

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