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School Building Repair Work

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The following table shows the annual capital expenditure on school building repair and improvement in England.

The figures shown for central government expenditure include capital grants to voluntary aided and special agreement schools, capital grants to non-maintained special schools and specialist schools, and grants to grant maintained schools paid by the FAS. In addition these figures also include £84 million and £250 million in 1997-98 and 1998-99 respectively for New Deal for Schools and £90 million in 1998-99 for new capital support for schools--£35 million to remove outside toilets, £15 million to improve heating and £40 million to reduce Key Stage 1 class sizes.

The figures shown for local authority expenditure include credit approvals, receipts and other local authority funds.

Capital Expenditure on School Buildings in England

Average Central GovernmentLocal AuthorityTotal
Expenditure£ million£ million£ million
1987 to 1997165.87662.10827.97

(1) The figures for 1997-98 show the estimated outturn for this period.

(2) The figures for 1998-99 show the estimated outturn for this period. The level of direct local authority spending has been assumed to be at the level of that for 1997-98 to allow comparison of the figures.

Merrywood and Pen Park Schools, Bristol

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have had any discussions with Bristol City Council regarding the possible closure of Merrywood and Pen Park Secondary Schools.[HL137]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Officials from the Department visited Bristol Local Education Authority last week to discuss a range of issues, including those relating to Merrywood and Pen Park Secondary Schools. We understand that the authority is currently consulting on options for the future of these schools.

CJD and Smoking: Deaths

Lord Gisborough asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many deaths were caused by BSE in 1997-98; and how many deaths were caused by smoking-related illnesses during the same period.[HL156]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): Although there is convincing scientific evidence that the agent which causes new variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (nvCJD) in humans is the same as that which causes Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle research so far has been unable to confirm how those who have died of nvCJD contracted the disease. The department publishes, on a monthly basis, figures for

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the number of deaths of definite and probable cases of CJD of all types in the United Kingdom. The latest figures, published on 7 December, showed that in the UK in 1997 there were 10 confirmed cases of definite and probable nvCJD. So far in 1998 there have been a further 10 cases. The total since the disease was first identified is now 33.

Although the number of cases remains low, it is still too soon to make any reliable estimate of the future pattern of the disease.

The Health Education Authority estimate that in the UK in 1995, the latest date for which figures are available, at least 121,000 people died prematurely as a result of their own smoking.

Medical Expenses: ECJ Judgment

Lord Jenkin of Roding asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answers by the Baroness Jay of Paddington on 3 June (WA 36) and 25 June (WA 44-45) what conclusions they have come to from their consideration of the cases of Decker and Kohll in the European Court of Justice, which concern the rights of citizens of one European Union state to have medical treatment in another European Union state paid for by the authorities of the former state.[HL169]

Baroness Hayman: We do not expect to make immediate changes to our systems to take specific account of the Decker and Kohll judgments. These concerned the legality of Luxembourg national rules concerning the reimbursement of medical expenses under its compulsory insurance-based public health system. The National Health Service is tax funded and residence based, generally free at the point of delivery with no provision to allow consumers who purchase health care goods or services from the private sector to have their costs reimbursed from the state. Discussions continue at official level between the member states and the Commission. The forthcoming German Presidency of the European Union is arranging for discussion of the general issues of principle at a conference to be held in Potsdam in January in preparation for possible discussion by Ministers at the Health Council meeting on 8 June 1999.

Diabetic Pen Needles

Lord Dixon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will introduce a policy for provision of pen needles on prescription for all insulin-dependent diabetics; and[HL133]

    What progress has been made on the review of the present policy on pen needles for diabetics.[HL132]

Baroness Hayman: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health expects to make a decision shortly.

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Parliamentary Counsel

Lord Brightman asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Jay of Paddington on 16 November (WA 127), on what dates the last two reports by the Parliamentary Counsel Office were made to the Prime Minister.[HL134]

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): The First Parliamentary Counsel is responsible to the Prime Minister for the work of the Parliamentary Counsel Office. This does not involve the making of formal reports. As part of the Cabinet Office, the Parliamentary Counsel Office is included in the annual report of the Cabinet Office.

Bombing: Authorisation

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is within the powers of the Prime Minister to pledge the United Kingdom to support the United States in bombing another country without specific authority for that action; and, if not, on what authority the Prime Minister appears to have given such a pledge.[HL13]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The Prime Minister acts on such issues in consultation with his Cabinet colleagues with the authority vested in him as Prime Minister.

Agriculture Council, 23-24 November

Lord Kirkhill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 23 and 24 November.[HL65]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): My right honourable friend the Minister represented the United Kingdom at a meeting of the EU Agriculture Council in Brussels on 23 and 24 November. My noble friend Lord Sewel, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Scottish Office, was also present.

The Council voted on a proposal made by the Commission for the lifting of the world-wide ban on the export of British beef in respect of meat from animals born after 1 August 1996. Ten member states voted in favour of the measure; only one, Germany--for understandable domestic reasons--voted against. Spain, France, Austria and Luxembourg abstained. This vote represented a substantial move towards the Commission proposal by five member states from the earlier vote in the Standing Veterinary Committee. Most important, the procedures under which the vote was taken in Council enable the Commission formally to adopt the decision. My right honourable friend the Minister announced to the House that the Commission has adopted the

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proposal, which permits the export from the UK of boneless beef and beef products from animals slaughtered between six and 30 months of age and born after 1 August 1996. That is the date on which the Commission has verified that all contaminated feed was removed from the feed chain. There are further conditions which aim to prevent the offspring of BSE cases from entering the export scheme; a requirement for the slaughter of offspring of BSE cases; and strict rules on slaughtering and processing. The Government will shortly issue a consultation paper on our proposals for implementing these rules. My right honourable friend the Minister will be laying before Parliament secondary legislation which will make the offspring cull, which has been operating since July on a voluntary basis, compulsory. The legislation will provide compensation at the market rate to owners of animals slaughtered.

This is an excellent outcome which we are sure the House will welcome. It has been achieved against a background of scepticism about the seriousness with which we have tackled BSE. We have now overcome these misconceptions and had our case judged objectively on its scientific merits and supported by independent Commission inspections, taking as our overriding principle the absolute need to safeguard public health.

Every Agriculture Minister who spoke in the Council, including those who did not vote in favour, had very positive things to say about the commitment shown by the new United Kingdom Government to tackling the problems presented by BSE. The outcome is also an affirmation of the value of this Government's close co-operation and dialogue with our partners in Europe and with the European Commission.

The lifting of the ban comes hard on the heels of the support measures for the agriculture sector which my right honourable friend the Minister announced to the House on 16 November. Both demonstrate the Government's commitment to securing a viable long term future for the sector.

The Council also held a discussion of the Commission's proposals for CAP reform in the context of the Agenda 2000 measures. These proposals are essential for the future stability of European agriculture and in order to facilitate a successful enlargement of the Union to the east. The Council agreed a report to the Vienna European Council next month identifying the main outstanding issues and expressing its determination to reach conclusions on the package as a whole by next March. It is an important government objective to secure an ambitious reform of the CAP which serves the national interest, and my right honourable friend the Minister very much welcomed the commitment by the Council to take early decisions. My right honourable friend the Chancellor made similar points in the discussion in Ecofin on 23 November on the future financing of the European Union.

This was a very important Council meeting for the United Kingdom. We have achieved a major objective of our policy towards Europe in the lifting of the beef export ban. Although it will take time for the British

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beef industry to win back markets which have been lost to it in the past two and a half years, my right honourable friend the Minister believes we have created the conditions in which it can now plan for the future, confident that the industry is operating to the highest possible standards. Our immediate task is to work with the industry to ensure that the scheme which we have successfully negotiated in Europe works effectively to help regain recognition for the quality of British beef on world markets.

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