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Equal Opportunities Commission: Quinquennial Review

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Blackstone: We expect to publish the report of the quinquennial review of the EOC and place copies in the Libraries of the House in January 1999.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Blackstone: The Equal Opportunities Commission wants women and men to have access to the full range of jobs in every sector and at every level in the economy. The Commission supports the use of lawful measures by training, industry and employer organisations to encourage women or men into non-traditional areas of work. It may from time to time support such initiatives but the Commission does not itself fund programmes directed at one sex only.

Scotland and Northern Ireland: Corporal Punishment in Schools

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): The Government consider that children in independent schools in Scotland and Northern Ireland should benefit from the same protection against corporal punishment as in England and Wales. It will, however, fall to the Scottish

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Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly to consider appropriate legislation to ensure this.

Scotland: Incapable Adults

The Earl of Mar and Kellie asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will introduce a Bill to reform the law in Scotland relating to incapable adults; and, if so, when and in which Parliament.[HL192]

Lord Sewel: The subject of decision-making on behalf of adults who are unable to manage their own affairs is an important one. The Government have been made fully aware of the issues through the report by the Scottish Law Commission in 1995 and subsequent public consultation, which attracted a substantial and carefully considered response. We accept the need for reform of the existing legislation in this important area of the law that provides support and protection for some of the most vulnerable people in society.

It will be within the competence of the Scottish Parliament to legislate in this area and this statement cannot pre-empt announcements about the Scottish Parliament's legislative programme. It excludes consideration of the SLC's recommendations about medical treatment and research and advance statements. These are sensitive issues and we received many responses on them in the consultation exercise. We have not made any decisions on these matters yet; and we shall also want to consider what emerges from the Lord Chancellor's recent consultation exercise on similar proposals for England and Wales.

We agree with the general principles proposed by the SLC that any intervention should: produce a benefit for the adult; be least restrictive of the adult's freedom; wherever possible encourage the adult to use existing skills and acquire new skills, and take account of the present and past wishes of the adult.

In relation to particular aspects of the report, we agree with the SLC on the following:

    The proposed definition of mental incapacity;

    The current office of the Accountant of Court should be expanded to form a new office of Public Guardian;

    The function of the Public Guardian should be to maintain public registers of all those authorised to take decisions on behalf of an incapable adult and to supervise and monitor the performance of financial guardians;

    The recognition of continuing and welfare powers of attorney and the introduction of public scrutiny of the exercise of such powers;

    The creation of a new concept of guardianship to provide for a broad and flexible system of one-off intervention orders and longer-term guardianship, with appropriate welfare or financial powers as ordered by the court; and

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    That key decisions on applications, and in other proceedings under the proposed legislation, should be dealt with in the sheriff courts.

There are a small number of areas where we propose to vary the SLC's recommendations.

We propose to modify the SLC scheme for carers in domestic settings to have access to funds from the bank accounts of incapable adults, in order to meet daily living expenses. Under the revised scheme, the Public Guardian would grant authority to have stipulated payments made for a time limited period from the incapable adult's account to a designated account. The Public Guardian would have powers to check that the incapable adult's funds were being applied for the intended purpose.

We propose to modify the SLC recommendations that residential homes should apply to the Public Guardian for authority to manage residents' finances. Under the revised proposals, registration and inspection authorities in local authorities and health boards would authorise the managers of residential establishments to manage the funds of residents who are incapable of so doing, up to prescribed limits, and in circumstances where no other arrangements would be appropriate for managing the finances of these residents.

We do not propose to follow the SLC recommendation that the Public Guardian should be able to be appointed as financial guardian to an incapable adult. We take the view, however, that the arrangements recommended for withdrawals from bank accounts and for intervention orders, and also for management of finances by residential establishments, should be sufficient to meet the needs of incapable adults with modest estates. The Public Guardian's functions will be focused on maintaining public registers of guardians and monitoring and supervising guardians with financial powers. Local authorities and the Mental Welfare Commission will monitor those exercising welfare powers on behalf of incapable adults.

War Pensions Agency

Baroness David asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans there are to review the operations of the War Pensions Agency.[HL338]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): Departments are required to undertake a Prior Options Review of their Next Steps Agencies from time to time as their Framework Agreements expire. The War Pension Agency's Framework Agreement expires in 1999 and a review will be carried out to examine the available options for administering the war pensions scheme for the next five years. We will be consulting ex-service organisations and representatives of war pensioners. I will be writing to the members of the Central Advisory Committee on War Pensions to ask them for their views.

We expect to announce the results of the review in autumn 1999.

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Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Working Group into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome announced on 4 November will be considering whether Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), as defined by the "Dowsett" or "London" criteria, is a distinct illness from that characterised by the "Oxford" or "CDC 1994" criteria for the purposes of clinical management.[HL293]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Hayman): The remit of the Working Group on Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (CFS/ME) has not yet been fully defined. It is intended that it will review management and practice in the field of CFS/ME with the aim of providing best practice guidelines for professionals, patients and carers to improve the quality of care and treatment for people with CFS/ME.

MMR Vaccine: Research

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many case reports from parents of adverse reaction by their children to vaccines the Medicines Control Agency has received; and[HL292]

    Further to the Written Answer by Baroness Hayman on 7 December (WA 66), when they anticipate that the work of:

    (a) the Medicines Control Agency Working Group evaluating reports of children where parents have suspected adverse effects following the MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine; and

    (b) the MCA's study of the possible association between the MMR vaccine and autism;

    will be completed and published.[HL295]

Baroness Hayman: By 9 December 1998 the Medicines Control Agency (MCA) had received 531 reports from parents of adverse reactions to vaccines given to children. The working group has made considerable progress in assessing reports for which medical documentation is available, and its report is expected next year.

We understand that the MCA-sponsored study of autism in relation to measles, mumps and rubella vaccine has been completed and that the authors will shortly submit this work for publication in the medical literature.

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