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16 Mar 2000 : Column WA217

Written Answers

Thursday, 16th March 2000.

Cattle: Over Thirty Month Scheme

Lord Vinson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they consider the compensation arrangements for the compulsory slaughter of cattle over 30 months to be fair; and whether they will consider raising the current weight ceiling on slaughtered cattle to compensate at a price reflecting open market value.[HL1241]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): The Over Thirty Month Scheme provides a voluntary outlet for cattle which are excluded from the food chain by virtue of their age and for which there is no market. The Government consider that payments under the scheme are fair to taxpayers and producers. The weight limit and other payment terms are set by the European Commission.

Alzheimer's Disease: Treatment with Aricept

Lord Dixon asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many health care trusts in the Northern Region Health Authority refuse people in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease the drug Aricept on National Health Service prescription; and[HL1517]

    Which health care trusts make the drug Aricept available on National Health Service prescription; and[HL1518]

    Which health care trusts refuse patients the drug Aricept on National Health Service prescription; and[HL1519]

    How much money is saved by health care trusts which deny patients the drug Aricept on National Health Service prescription.[HL1520]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Information about local policies on the treatment of Alzheimer's disease is not routinely collected and assessed centrally, but we understand that there is some prescribing of Aricept in all health authorities.

Aricept and other pharmaceutical treatment for Alzheimer's disease will be reviewed by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence as part of its first work programme. This work is expected to be completed by December 2000.

Jubilee Line Signal Failures

Baroness Anelay of St Johns asked Her Majesty's Government:

    On how many occasions since 6 January the Jubilee Line service has been disrupted by signal failure.[HL1400]

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The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): I understand from London Underground that between 7 January and 4 March 2000 there were in total 55 incidents of delay attributable to failure of Jubilee Line signalling equipment. Of these, nine were of over 15 minutes' duration and the rest between two and 15 minutes.

As you know, work is in hand aimed at improving performance significantly.

River Thames: Piers

Lord Luke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will commission a review of the number and location of piers on the River Thames, with particular reference to the convenience of existing piers and their proximity to public passenger transport on land.[HL1404]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: The Government fully appreciate that the provision of high quality piers in convenient locations is essential to the development of sustainable Thames passenger services. That is why our Thames 2000 initiative includes the construction of new or replacement piers in at least four key locations (Blackfriars, Tower, Waterloo and Westminster). The transfer of the management of key central London piers to the London Transport subidiary London River Services Ltd was an important step towards integrating piers and river services fully into the capital's public transport network.

Responsibility for managing river services after July 2000 will fall to the new Mayor of London. The mayor will have a statutory duty to have regard to the desirability of promoting and encouraging use of the river and especially river passenger services. It will be for the mayor to consider whether to carry out a review of piers.

Private Hire Vehicle Licensing, London

Lord Brabazon of Tara asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress they are making in implementing the Private Hire Vehicles (London) Act 1998.[HL1456]

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: Ministers in the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Public Carriage Office have carefully considered the responses to last year's joint consultation on proposals for licensing private hire vehicle operators in London. Draft regulations are now being drawn up; we intend to conduct a further joint consultation on them as soon as possible. Further consultations on proposals for regulating private hire drivers and vehicles will follow.

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Fair Rents: Increases

Baroness Jeger asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the present position of the order proposed to have been made under Section 31 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to forbid increases of more than 7.5 per cent (plus the Retail Price Index) being made by landlords in rents being paid by tenants with fair rent registrations under the Housing Act 1988.[HL1432]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The Court of Appeal ruled in a judgment handed down on 20 January that the Rent Acts (Maximum Fair Rent) Order 1999 is ultra vires, unlawful and of no effect. The order has been quashed. The position is that fair rent registrations by rent officers and rent assessment committees will be dealt with in the way they were prior to the introduction of the order in February 1999.

We remain committed to protecting tenants who pay a fair rent against excessive increases. We have petitioned this House to grant leave to appeal the Court's decision.

Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answers by the Lord Whitty on 21 February (WA 4-5), how they intend to progress measures to secure the long-term funding and protection of Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.[HL1426]

Lord Whitty My right honourable friend the Minister for the Environment expects to make an announcement soon about measures to conserve and enhance designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Natural Disasters and Environmental Policy

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What analysis they have made of worldwide natural disasters during the past 10 years; what conclusions they have reached; and what are the implications for the priority of environment policy in Government Action.[HL1468]

Lord Whitty: My department works alongside the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development, exploring methods for predicting the impact of environmental stresses on stability and defining the options for UK government response through, for example, environmental policy, aid programmes or defence diplomacy. The seriousness of these issues is reflected in the high priority that

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environment is given in government policy, domestically and internationally.

In addition, we support multilateral work to mitigate the effects of natural disasters. The UK is the second largest donor of the United Nations' Environment Programme (UNEP), which takes a leading role in assessing the environmental impacts of natural disasters. Its recent activities include work in Venezuela and Mozambique. UNEP's most recent assessment of the effect of natural disasters is contained in its Global Environment Outlook 2000 report, which was published in September 1999.

While it is not possible to attribute any specific natural disaster to human-induced climate change, it is expected that global warming will be accompanied by changes in extreme weather events. This conclusion has arisen from the results of part of an £8 million-pa research programme funded at the Hadley Centre by my department, which is continuing.

To combat the effects of climate change, we have just announced a programme for reduction in UK greenhouse emissions by 21.5 per cent, almost double our 12.5 per cent target under the Kyoto Protocol. This programme could also achieve the more difficult national goal of a 20 per cent cut in carbon dioxide emissions.

Postage Stamp Themes

Lord Laird asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What considerations are taken into account by the Royal Mail in the selection of an important event as a theme suitable for celebration on postage stamps.[HL1411]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): The Royal Mail selects events and themes for celebration on postage stamps which:

    commemorate important anniversaries;

    celebrate events of national and international importance;

    reflect the British contribution to world affairs, in particular to the Commonwealth and Europe, in a variety of fields of activity including the arts and sciences;

    reflect the many varied aspects of Britain and the British way of life;

    extend public patronage to the arts by encouraging the development of minuscule art;

    fit in with the Post Office's commercial target for philately.

In addition the following conventions apply:

    Any topic which may be considered controversial or cause offence nationally is avoided.

    No identifiable living person, other than Royalty, is depicted.

    Anniversaries are restricted generally to 50 year multiples.

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    Past and future years are considered to ensure a balance and variety of subjects taking one year with another.

    Within a year's programme, the aim is to provide a variety of categories of subjects.

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