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1 Nov 2000 : Column WA97

Written Answers

Wednesday, 1st November 2000.

Government Cars

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Lord McIntosh of Haringey on 16 October (WA 68), what is the policy of the Department for International Development in relation to the disposal of government cars after use.[HL4314]

Baroness Amos: The Department for International Development does not own any government cars. The three official vehicles they use are all leased from the Government Car and Despatch Agency.

Lord Hoyle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton on 13 October (WA 58), for what security reasons the Welsh Office were unable to give the information in relation to the two cars supplied by the Government Car and Despatch Agency which was given by the Lord Falconer of Thoroton on 24 July (WA 15).[HL4271]

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton: The information requested was given by Lord Falconer on 24 July 2000 (Vol. 616, WA 15). Because of the small number of cars used by the Wales Office it is important to avoid giving information that might inadvertently lead to vehicles' identification when they are in use. Other departments may make their own assessment of the security risks facing individual Ministers but it is not the Government's policy to discuss the risks facing any individual Minister.

Common Agricultural Policy

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will report progress on the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's recent meeting with other EU Agriculture Ministers to discuss further reform of the CAP.[HL4440]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): Together with ministerial colleagues from Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands, my right honourable friend, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Nick Brown) took part in discussions on the future direction of the common agricultural policy at a meeting on Capri hosted by the Italian Minister of Agricultural Policy, Mr Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio. These discussions carried forward the fruitful co-operation between Italy, Denmark, Sweden and UK which was a feature of the 1999 Agenda 2000 negotiations on the CAP. The Dutch Minister participated in the meeting for the first time in an observer capacity. Given the challenges of EU enlargement and the WTO trade negotiations to

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the future of the CAP, the participating Ministers agreed a programme of collective work on reform of the CAP, and decided to meet in a similar format in the course of next year. A copy of the framework document agreed upon at the Capri meeting has been placed in the Library of the House.

United Kingdom Register of Organic Food Standards

Lord Dubs asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans have been made to review the operation of the United Kingdom Register of Organic Food Standards.[HL4441]

Baroness Hayman: As part of the Modernising Government programme, my department is now beginning a formal review of the United Kingdom Register of Organic Food Standards (UKROFS), which is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Ministry. UKROFS exercises regulatory and supervisory responsibilities in relation to organic farming across the United Kingdom.

The first stage of the review is expected to cover the following issues: (a) The effectiveness of the present arrangements for discharging the national "competent authority" functions prescribed by Council Regulation (EEC) 2092/91 for regulating organic farming taking full account of:

    Government objectives for modernising public services, particularly the need for continuous improvement and better value for money;

    Government policy on the regulation of farming, in particular the Strategy for Agriculture, and any parallel policy statements prepared by the devolved administrations;

    the likely growth in the size and number of businesses in the organic farming-sector;

    the fact that responsibility for agriculture is now devolved to the administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales; and

    the absence of a clear legal base for UKROFS.

(b) The continuing need for the discretionary functions currently exercised by UKROFS, including:

    setting standards for organic produce, either where there are no EU standards or by supplementing EU standards;

    directly certifying producers who do not wish to register with the private sector certification bodies; and

    advising Ministers on organic sector issues, including commissioning R&D.

Because UKROFS is a UK body, the Scottish Executive, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly will be closely involved in the review.

We expect to take decisions on the outcome of the first stage of the review before Easter 2001.

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Full details of the review, including advice on how to contribute, are being placed in the Library and on my department's website.

Army Base Repair Organisation, Sennybridge: Turn-Round Times

Earl Attlee asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many pieces of equipment have been outstanding for repair by the Army Base Repair Organisation's workshop at Sennybridge, as at 9 October, for (a) between one and seven days; (b) between seven days and two weeks; (c) between two weeks and one month; (d) between one month and two months; and (e) between two and six months.[HL4284]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): Work brought by military units for repair at the ABRO workshop at Sennybridge is managed in accordance with a priority system set by Land Command that affords an agreed Urgency of Need to the job to be done. The degree of urgency determines the maximum length of time in which ABRO must turn round the equipment for repair. Typically, equipment must be turned round in the region of 20 to 30 days. As at 9 October 2000 there was no equipment in the repair process at Sennybridge that had exceeded the agreed turn-round time. The ABRO output Key Target in financial year 1999-2000, for the service provided to Land Command and to which the Sennybridge workshop contributes, is "to complete 95 per cent of District Load tasks within the priorities agreed with the customer." During that year Sennybridge achieved 98.9 per cent of tasks within the agreed turn-round times; a performance verified by internal audit. In the year to date achievement is running at 99.8 per cent.

Mr Graham Gaskin

Lord Alton of Liverpool asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action they have taken with regard to the Council of Europe resolution (DH(2000)106) in connection with the release of personal information concerning Mr Graham Gaskin and his time in institutional care; and what actions they intend to take to ensure the early implementation of judgments such as that of the case of Mr Gaskin.[HL4376]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The Data Protection Act 1998 came into force in March this year. The Act implements the European Directive on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data, and on the free movement of such data. It also gives effect to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the 1989 case Gaskin v the United Kingdom concerning the right of

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access to social work records. At the same time guidance on the working of the Act was issued to social services departments by the Department of Health.

Local authorities were warned of the Act's pending implementation in 1998 and formally advised to act in the meantime as if the Act were already in force so as to give data subjects access, where possible, to personal information held about them in social services files.

Under the Act, responsibility for the release of personal information held by social services departments continues to rest with local authorities. Local authorities also retain the discretion to refuse access. However, in such circumstances the Act gives people the right to appeal against the decision to the Data Protection Commissioner or the courts.


Baroness Jeger asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What help is given by the National Health Service to haemophilia sufferers. [HL4383]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The National Health Service provides care and treatment for people with haemophilia at home and in hospital through a United Kingdom-wide network of haemophilia and comprehensive care centres. We are working closely with the Haemophilia Alliance, which includes the Haemophilia Society and the UK Haemophilia Centre Doctors Organisation, on the development of a national service specification for haemophilia aimed at improving care and services.

Biopsy Waiting Times

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What they regard as the maximum acceptable period for a National Health Service patient to have to wait for a biopsy for a suspected tumour, once the biopsy has been requested by a doctor; and whether there is any provision for a patient to be able to recover from public funds the cost of having the biopsy done privately in cases when the waiting period is longer than that laid down. [HL4176]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The NHS Cancer Plan published in September sets out new waiting targets for cancer treatment which will be implemented over the next five years. These will build on the two week outpatient waiting times standard that has been in place for all urgent breast cancer referrals from April 1999 and which is currently being rolled out for all urgent suspected cancer referrals.

By 2005 cancer patients will wait a maximum of one month from diagnosis to treatment and a maximum of two months from urgent general practitioner referral to treatment. Our ultimate goal is that no patient should wait longer than one month from an urgent referral for suspected cancer to the beginning of

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treatment except for a good clinical reason or through personal choice.

There is no provision for a patient to recover from public funds the cost of having a biopsy done privately. The Government's priority remains the modernisation of the NHS so that patients receive a high quality clinically appropriate service when and where they need it by making maximum use of all appropriate facilities and developing new services if necessary.

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