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Written Answers

Tuesday, 25th July 2000.

Disease Reduction: G8 Commitment

Lord Hylton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ask the G8 States to strengthen the World Health Organisation's work for the containment of AIDS and the prevention of other diseases.[HL3498]

Baroness Amos: The communique that G8 leaders issued at the end of their recent summit in Okinawa included a call on governments, international organisations, industry, academic institutions, NGOs and others to work more strongly together on achieving international targets for reducing HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria. The UK was influential in obtaining that commitment and will work to try to ensure that it is carried into effect.

Folic Acid Added to Flour

Baroness Massey of Darwen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they plan to issue the consultation document on the implementation of the recommendations of the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy (COMA) on the addition of folic acid to flour.[HL3564]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The United Kingdom Health Departments and the Food Standards Agency have today published a joint public consultation document on the report from the Committee on Medical Aspects of Food and Nutrition Policy which concluded that all flour should be fortified with folic acid to prevent neural tube defects. The consultation period runs until 31 October 2000. The document is available in the Library and on the internet at

Meat Hygiene Service: Performance Targets

Lord Haskel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What performance targets have been set for the Meat Hygiene Service in 2000-01.[HL3555]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: Following consultation with interested organisations, the board of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) approved at its meeting on 20 July the following performance targets for the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) for 2000-01:

1. Public Health Protection

    (a) Reduction of microbiological hazards in meat: Fully apply MHS Clean Livestock Policy.

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    Not to apply the health mark stamp to any meat showing visible faecal or alimentary tract contents contamination. Take effective action in slaughterhouses with low Hygiene Assessment System (HAS) scores to improve hygiene standards.

    (b) Removal of Specified Risk Material (SRM) from the human and animal food chain:

Strictly enforce SRM controls in abattoirs.

2. Animal Welfare

    Strictly enforce Welfare at Slaughter and Killing Regulations.

3. Staff Training

    Provide update training for all Principal Official Veterinary Surgeons and lead Official Veterinary Surgeons (OVSs) in enforcement (training course to be developed in liaison with FSA Legal Services).

    Provide update training for 33 per cent of lead OVSs in animal welfare at slaughter (training course to be developed in liaison with Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Animal Welfare Division).

    Provide refresher training for 33 per cent of lead OVSs in hygiene requirements (training course to be developed in liaison with FSA Veterinary Public Health Unit).

    All training to be completed by 31 March 2001 and to comply with Investors in People standards.

4. Customer Focus

    Provision of high quality service.

    Introduce an independent element to MHS Appeals System.

Sign up to Government Enforcement Concordat.

    To meet the FSA targets for customer service.

    Maintain full compliance with Charter Mark standards.

5. Value for Money


    To implement those recommendations in the Pooley report applicable to the MHS and accepted by the FSA for implementation in 2000-01.

    To implement those recommendations in the external efficiency review accepted, and within the timetable laid down, by the FSA Board.

6. Financial Performance

    To operate within the cash allocations as agreed with the FSA.

    To recover from government departments, agencies and the Intervention Board Executive Agency (IBEA) the full economic costs (calculated in accordance with the relevant charging legislation and accruals accounting) of providing agreed services or other work undertaken on their behalf.

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A copy of the consultation package, summary of responses and details of the assessment of these targets have been placed in the Library. They are also available on the FSA website at

Prime Minister's Family: Security Provision

Lord Palmer asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have any plans to provide bodyguards for the children of the Prime Minister.[HL3292]

The Lord Privy Seal (Baroness Jay of Paddington): It has been the long-standing policy of successive governments not to comment on such matters.

Asylum Seekers: NI Numbers and Access to Benefits

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they accept the finding in paragraph 83 of the Audit Commission report Another Country that the average time taken for asylum seekers who have received a positive decision on their claim to gain access to social security benefits is four to six weeks and that the main reason is delay in obtaining National Insurance numbers; and if they do not accept this claim, what they consider is the average time, and on what information they base their consideration.[HL3324]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): I am not able to comment on the figures quoted by the Audit Commission in paragraph 83 because the Benefits Agency (BA) does not collect this information by client group. However, information on clearance times for claims is collected by benefit type. Claims target and performance figures for the 1999-2000 year for mainstream benefits are:

Income Support 87 per cent in 13 days87.2 per cent
Jobseekers' Allowance 90 per cent in 21 days97 per cent
Incapacity Benefit 85 per cent in 30 days93.1 per cent

The Benefits Agency is aware that there have been some delays in the allocation of National Insurance Numbers (NINOs), but is taking steps to eliminate these delays. Additional resources were made available across the BA this year to enhance the process. Implementation begins this month, July 2000.

Meanwhile local offices have been issued with guidance on making interim payments in circumstances where a NINO cannot be immediately allocated and where the BA is satisfied that a person is who he says he is.

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Special Needs Children with Behavioural Disorder: Disability Living Allowance

Lord Rogan asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the number of families receiving a disability living allowance for children who have been designated as having special needs, mainly because of or including emotional behavioural difficulties, has increased or decreased over the past five years; and by how much, in (a) England; (b) Wales; (c) Scotland; and (d) Northern Ireland; and[HL3376]

    How many families are receiving a disability living allowance for children who have been designated as having special educational needs mainly because of or including, emotional behavioural difficulties, in (a) England; (b) Wales; (c) Scotland; and (d) Northern Ireland.[HL3377]

Baroness Hollis of Heigham: The information is not available in the form requested.

Available figures are in the following table:

Children aged under 16 in receipt of disability living allowance whose main disabling condition is behavioural disorder*

Country1994Year(2) 1999% increase(3) from 1994 to 1999
Northern Ireland(5)1,2052,10675


(1) Includes enuresis and hyperactivity.

(2) Figures relate to 30 November.

(3) Based on unrounded figures.

(4) Rounded figures to nearest 100 from DSS Information Centre: 5 per cent data.

(5) Unrounded figures from Northern Ireland DHSS: 100 per cent data.

* Children regarded as having behaviour problems form a very broad group and include oppositional defiant disorder, and conduct disorder, which are medically recognised categories of problem behaviour.

Awards of DLA are assessed on the claimant's needs for care and mobility arising from their disability, not on educational needs. Information linking DLA awards and special educational needs is not available.

The figures for Scotland and Wales are subject to relatively large margins of error because of the small number in the sample.

Jobseekers on Benefit Disallowance: Crisis Loans

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Annual Report on the Social Fund (Cm.4755), paragraph 3.7, what was the guidance issued in November 1999 to clarify when crisis loan restrictions should be applied to sanctioned or disallowed Jobseekers.[HL3455]

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Baroness Hollis of Heigham: Guidance was issued by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Social Security in order to make explicit the beginning and end dates of the 14-day period of restricted access to Social Fund crisis loans which is imposed on Jobseekers who are subject to a benefit disallowance or sanction.

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