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20 Jan 2000 : Column WA155

Written Answers

Thursday, 20th January 2000.

Iraq: Military List Equipment Exports

Lord Gregson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether any goods on the United Kingdom Military List have recently been approved for export to Iraq.[HL583]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Scotland of Asthal): Following consultation with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Defence, the Department of Trade and Industry recently approved a licence to export 160 protective vests to Iraq for use by UN personnel in a humanitarian demining programme. The export of the equipment to Iraq was approved under the Oil for Food Programme by the UN Sanctions Committee.

River Danube: Clearance

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have received any proposals from the Danube Commission or from the United Nations Environment Programme for removing obstructions to navigation in the Danube within the former Yugoslavia; and, if so, in what terms.[HL533]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The European Union has encouraged the Danube Commission to work on a solution and has expressed its willingness to consider an EU contribution to the clearance work. I understand that the EU was due to receive a report by the Danube Commission on 24 January. The question of EU funding will be considered in the light of this report.

10 Downing Street: Staff Numbers and Costs

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they have to cap the numbers of those who work in 10 Downing Street and the expenditure on them.[HL392]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): There are no such plans.

Political Honours Scrutiny Committee

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Who are the current members of the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee; and what were the dates of their appointment.[HL285]

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Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The current members of the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee are:

    The Right Honourable Lord Thomson of Monifieth KT, appointed a member on 9 November 1992 (Chairman, 16 April 1999).

    The Right Honourable Baroness Dean of Thornton-Le-Fylde, appointed 24 March 1998.

    The Right Honourable Lord Hurd of Westwell CH CBE, appointed 16 April 1999.

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord Falconer of Thoroton on 8 December, whether they are satisfied that "impartiality and political balance are maintained" in the event that a trustee of or contributor to a ministerial blind trust is appointed to the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee.[HL286]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: I refer the noble Earl to the Answer I gave on 8 December 1999 (Official Report, 8 December 1999, col. 90).

Media Monitoring Unit

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Who are the current members of the Media Monitoring Unit together with the dates of their appointment.[HL370]

Lord Falconer of Thoroton: The Media Monitoring Unit is staffed by eight civil servants ranging in grade from B1 (Executive Officer) to A (Grade 7/6). These staff were appointed between April 1998 and November 1999.

House of Lords Reform: Royal Commission Report

Lord Hardy of Wath asked the Leader of the House:

    What is her response to the Royal Commission Report on House of Lords Reform to be published on 20 January.[HL662]

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): The Royal Commission was set a complex and difficult task to be completed within a demanding timetable. I am grateful to Lord Wakeham and to all the Commissioners for their hard work and commitment in producing this carefully considered and thoughtful report and for meeting the Government's tight deadlines.

The Government will need time to consider the recommendations made by the Royal Commission. However, it is very welcome that the Commissioners have produced a unanimous report, as this provides a sound platform for moving forward on a genuine cross party basis.

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Residential Care Home Standards: Consultation

Lord Lipsey asked Her Majesty's Government:

    (a) How many responses they received to their consultation document on residential care home standards Fit for the Future?;

    (b) Whether they will publish a summary of those responses;

    (c) What plans they have to refine their estimates of the cost to care homes providers of the proposed new standards in the light of the consultation;

    (d) Whether their proposals will form the basis of a study by the Better Regulation Task Force;

    (e) What form their final proposals will take; and

    (f) When their final proposals will be published.[HL521]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): We have received 733 responses to date. The consultation period for Fit for the Future? ends on 21 January. We have no plans at present to publish a summary of the comments received.

We will carefully consider all comments before we finalise the standards and there may be scope for differentiating between individual standards when deciding on implementation. The standards will be implemented by the National Care Standards Commission, which will assume its regulatory role in 2002. We intend to publish the final standards later this year so that providers will know what standards they will have to meet and users will know what standards they can expect as a minimum, well in advance of the implementation of the Care Standards Bill provisions for the new regulatory framework. A revised Regulatory Impact Assessment will be published with the finalised standards.

It is for the Better Regulation Task Force to decide what areas of statutory regulation it wants to study. However, our regulatory reforms, which include national standards, have been designed to meet the principles of good regulation--transparency, accountability, targeting, consistency and proportionality--as set out by the Regulation Task Force.

Mentally-ill Prisoners: Hospital Secure Beds

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many additional beds in secure wings of mental or general hospitals have been provided, for use by mentally-ill prisoners, in each of the last three years; and how many they expect to provide this year and in the coming three years.[HL535]

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Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The information requested is not available. Psychiatric beds for treatment of patients transferred from prison are not specifically designated within general or secure hospitals. The number of remand and convicted prisoners who were directed by the Home Secretary to hospital for assessment and treatment under provisions in the Mental Health Act 1983 in the past three years is shown in the following table:

Section of Mental Health Act199719981999 (provisional)1
Section 47251254247
Section 48508493442

1 The 1999 figures have not yet been fully updated, and are expected to rise.

In addition, over 1,000 other offenders are admitted to hospital each year whilst on remand or on conviction on the order of the courts.

By April 2001 we intend to have an extra 250 National Health Service secure places in addition to the 221 places planned this year--delivering well above the target set in the Mental Health National Service Framework of 300 extra places by April 2002.

NHS Trusts: Waiting List Reduction Incentives

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether NHS Trusts which fail to meet their waiting list reduction targets as a result of the current influenza outbreak will forgo any financial bonuses that they might otherwise have received.[HL557]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: There is no national system for giving trusts financial bonuses when they achieve waiting list reductions.

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will suspend their waiting list initiative until the current influenza outbreak has ceased to impose pressures on NHS hospitals.[HL558]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: This Government are determined to modernise the National Health Service. Reducing waiting lists is an essential part of this modernisation process. Demand for NHS services this winter is greater than last. The NHS has planned well for these critical months since the beginning of last year. A seasonal rise in waiting lists is expected over the next couple of months, reflecting the planned priority the NHS has given to winter emergency admissions. This is anticipated in our plans to achieve our manifesto waiting list target. Trusts will continue to work to ensure the target is achieved.

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Road Traffic Reduction Measures

Baroness Pitkeathley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the first report under the Road Traffic Reduction (National Targets) Act 1998.[HL625]

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): We have laid before the House Tackling Congestion and Pollution, our first report under this Act.

We agree with the Commission for Integrated Transport that we should not set a national road traffic reduction target. The national volume of road traffic is not a good measure of our success in improving the outcomes that matter; particularly congestion and pollution. Targets for air quality, greenhouse gas emissions, health and road safety are already in place or are shortly to be published. The report invites views on our proposal to develop new benchmarks and targets for congestion for different area or road types.

With widespread support from local authorities, businesses and the general public for the policies in the Integrated Transport White Paper and Transport Bill, we can also tackle congestion. The report shows that it should be possible to reduce congestion over the next decade, even when national traffic levels are rising.

The report shows that we can expect to see a reduction of more than half in the effect of traffic pollution on air quality over the next decade, mainly through better designed cars and fuels. We can also reduce emissions of greenhouse gases from road transport, though only to slightly below 1990 levels.

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