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Written Answers

Tuesday, 18th January 2000.

Intelligence and Security Committee

Lord Milner of Leeds asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to make an appointment to the Intelligence and Security Committee.[HL580]

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): My right honourable friend the Prime Minister has appointed the honourable Member for Doncaster Central (Ms Winterton), to be a member of the Intelligence and Security Committee in place of the honourable Member for Pontefract and Castleford (Ms Cooper), who left the Committee following her appointment as a Minister.

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are discussing the cases of the 13 Iranian Jews, and of other persons imprisoned in Iran without specific charges or known trial dates, with the Iranian Foreign Minister, during his visit to this country.[HL534]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary raised this issue with Dr Kharrazi during his visit on 10-12 January. We and our EU partners will continue to raise this issue until it is resolved.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will make representations to the Government of the Russian Federation seeking explanations about the human rights situation in Chechnya.[HL500]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal : We have repeatedly raised with the Russians our concerns that their action in Chechnya breaches their international human rights obligations.

We support the work of the Council of Europe in this area, including the Secretary-General's request to the Russians to explain how their action in Russia conforms with their human rights obligations. We welcome the proposed visit to the region by Lord Russell-Johnston, Chairman of the Parliamentary Assembly, and look forward to the Assembly's discussion of this issue in the week of 24 January.

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which of the nuclear weapon countries is most committed to the retention of such weapons; and which nuclear weapon country is most committed to steps towards a nuclear weapon free world.[HL502]

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Baroness Scotland of Asthal : That is a matter of opinion. But, among the nuclear weapons states, no government is more committed than we are to working for progress towards nuclear disarmament.

Saudi Arabia: Nuclear Weapons Policy

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the position of Saudi Arabia on nuclear weapons.[HL503]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Saudi Arabia has been a Non-Nuclear-Weapon State Party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons since its accession to the Treaty on 3 October 1988.

Health Pay Review Bodies' Recommendations

Lord Hughes of Woodside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish the reports and recommendations of the Health Pay Review Bodies.[HL582]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): I am responding on behalf of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister to the reports of the Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration (DDRB) and the Review Body on Nursing staff, Midwives, Health Visitors and Professions Allied to Medicine (NPRB), which have been published. I understand that a similar announcement was made by the First Minister and the Minister for Health and Community Care in Scotland. Copies of the reports are available in the Printed Paper Office and the Library. We are grateful to the chairmen and members of both Review Bodies for their hard work.

Nurses are to receive another big real terms increase in pay and, for the second year in succession, the award is being paid in full, with no staging. The NPRB have recommended an across the board increase of 3.4 per cent for nurses, midwives and health visitors, with bigger targeted increases for specific groups. About 60,000 Grade E nurses on the scale maximum will get a total increase of 7.8 per cent, worth an extra £1,390 a year, to improve career progression and reward skill acquisition and experience. Another 5,500 enrolled and auxiliary nurses in Grade C will receive total increases of 7 per cent, worth an extra £975 a year. London allowances, stand-by and on-call allowances will also rise by 3.4 per cent. This means that an experienced staff nurse in London will earn basic pay of £22,250 and elsewhere £19,220, with allowances and enhancements typically worth £2,000 on top of this.

The NPRB have also recommended across the board increases of 3.4 per cent for physiotherapists, radiographers and other professions allied to medicine (PAMs). In addition, about 4,500 experienced staff in

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the Senior 2 grade will receive total increases worth between 8.1 per cent and 8.4 per cent, to improve career progression for experienced staff at the top of their scale. The maximum of the scale for Senior 2 grade PAMs will be £21,290. London allowances, stand-by and on-call allowances will also rise by 3.4 per cent.

The Government have decided to accept all the NPRB pay recommendations for 2000-01, with no staging. The across the board settlement of 3.4 per cent for nurses and other NPRB remit groups is high when set against the current headline inflation rate and more than we are expecting for pay settlements in the public sector generally. However, National Health Service staff deserve a fair pay award, especially after coping so magnificently with huge pressures over the past few weeks. Moreover, we are still having to tackle the nursing recruitment and retention problems inherited as a direct consequence of the last government's failure. This year's settlement will build on last year's large awards. Taken together, the greater majority of Grade D and E nurses--the backbone of the service, who deliver hands-on patient care--will have received very significant pay increases which both recognise and value their contribution to the NHS.

Last year's pay awards gave a big boost to the success of the nurses' recruitment campaign which we launched in February 1999. Already over 5,000 nurses have returned or are set to do so after completing refresher training, and numbers taking up nursing degree and diploma courses have increased by 24 per cent and 18 per cent respectively. There has also been a sharp increase in male applications and in applications from the ethnic minority communities. But we are not stopping there and are determined to build on this success in our 2000 campaign to be launched next month. These awards will provide a welcome boost.

The Doctors' and Dentists' Review Body (DDRB) has recommended an overall increase of 3.3 per cent for salaried doctors and dentists and in the pay element of fees for general medical and general dental practitioners. In addition to the 3.3 per cent increase, consultants will also start to receive from 1 April 2000 the increases flowing through from the £50 million recommended by DDRB last year in recognition of their workload, work intensity and commitment to the NHS. These increases are worth a further 3 per cent on their pay bill and will take two forms. First, changes to the discretionary point arrangements mean that there will be over 2,400 extra awards available (worth over £2,500 each), making almost 5,600 in total, while the number of consultants eligible to receive awards will increase from 12,600 to almost 16,000. Secondly, there will be a new scheme to recognise consultants working in the most intense posts. For junior doctors the 3.3 per cent increase is over and above the money already on the table in our current negotiations on their new contract; from October 2000, this would add 6 per cent to their paybill in the first 12 months.

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General dental practitioners will also benefit from a £20 million package to recognise experience and quality and to reward past and present commitment to NHS dentistry. This will give a big boost to the Government's dental strategy and to improving access to NHS dentistry.

The contribution of all staff will be crucial if we are to maintain and improve the quality of patient care and to modernise the NHS. These pay awards, which build on the platform set by last year's increases, reflect a proper balance between the pay needed to recruit, retain and motivate staff and the needs of modern service delivery and patient care.

Hedgerow Protection

Lord Hardy of Wath asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action is being taken to ensure that European Union regulations do not lead to the destruction of hedgerows and, in particular, of those hedgerows which are protected under pre-1840 Enclosure Acts.[HL335]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): Important hedges are protected by the Hedgerow Regulations 1997. Guidance has been given to farmers encouraging them to seek advice about minimising the environmental impact of any action they may need to take to adjust the width of a hedge or other field margin in order to be able to continue claiming arable area payments on the full area of their fields.

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