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Health and Social Care Concordat

Lord Hughes of Woodside asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): The text of the health and social care concordat, which will guide the work of officials, has been agreed with the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales, without prejudice to the position of the Northern Ireland Executive Committee. Copies were placed in the Library on 9 December.

Road Traffic (NHS Charges) Act 1999: Review of Operation

Earl Howe asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: We are reproducing the text of the report of the review of the first six months of operation of the Road Traffic (NHS Charges) Act 1999. This text was given, in answer to a Parliamentary Question, by my honourable friend the Minister of State for Health (Mr Hutton), in another place on 11 November 1999 at cols. 813-814.

"The Road Traffic (NHS Charges) Act 1999 came into effect on 5 April this year. From that date responsibility for the collection of charges passed from individual hospitals to the Secretary of State for Health, with the Compensation Recovery Unit, a part of the Benefits Agency acting on his behalf.

"In the first six months of operation the Compensation Recovery Unit has received notification of 271,251 new claims for compensation following a road traffic accident. One third of these cases have been confirmed as involving treatment at an NHS hospital, one third have no NHS element and one third are currently being checked. This has resulted in the identification of an estimated £40 million potential income for NHS trusts in England, Scotland and Wales, to be released as and when the underlying compensation claims are settled.

"The Compensation Recovery Unit took delivery of a new computer system on 5 April 1999; not only to deal with NHS charge recovery but also to replace the elderly system in place for the recovery of state benefits since 1990. Technical problems with the new computer system have delayed the transfer of around 2 million records of claims for all types of personal injury compensation from the old system to the new. This, in turn, has delayed the collection of NHS charges in many cases where compensation has been paid since the scheme started in April.

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"The technical difficulties are now being overcome and the scheme is beginning to deliver significant sums of money to trusts. An initial payment was made at the end of July, when 185 trusts shared £230,305. August saw an improvement to 225 trusts sharing £713,162 and, at the end of September, 230 trusts shared £1,727,942. I can now confirm that the Compensation Recovery Unit recovered, and paid to 255 trusts, a further £3.7 million at the end of October, the largest ever monthly payment to the NHS in respect of recovery following road traffic accidents. This payment significantly exceeds the amounts previously collected by trusts in an average month in 1998-99 and shows a clear trend towards the step change in income we believe the new system will deliver.

"I will be making a further report on progress at the end of December and again at the end of the full financial year".

Since the review was published, we have been advised by the Compensation Recovery Unit (CRU) that the figure of 271,251 new claims was the total number of cases (all liabilities) entered onto the new computer system between April and the end of September this year and, of these, 153,165 should have been identified as relating to road traffic accidents and being notified to CRU for the first time. This correction does not affect the rest of the review.

The review concluded that the system was beginning, at the end of the first six months, to deliver sums to NHS trusts which showed a clear trend towards the step change in income we believe the new system will deliver. That conclusion has been strengthened with the payment of a further £5.7 million to trusts at the end of November and good progress with the migration of settled cases. We expect that the further reviews, promised at the end of December and at the end of the financial year, will confirm this conclusion.

Dental Strategy

Lord Clement-Jones asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish a national dental strategy.[HL243]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health plans to publish a dental strategy for England in the new year.

Agenda 2000: Agriculture Support

Lord Faulkner of Worcester asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made on the implementation of Agenda 2000: A New Direction for Agriculture.[HL270]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): On 7 December, my right honourable friend the Minister of

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Agriculture, Fisheries and Food announced a package of measures which will radically redirect support for agriculture in fulfilment of pledges made in our manifesto and subsequently. The announcement focused on one particular aspect--the Rural Development Regulation.

Our decisions in implementing options under all of the sectors of the Agenda 2000 reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy will have an important impact upon the future direction of the agricultural industry.

Beef regime

Under the beef regime, we have decided to use the National Envelope to top up payments to suckler cow producers in the year 2000; the position for future years will be reviewed, in particular to consider the possibility of introducing area-based payments on permanent pasture used for low-density beef production in England.

We will retain the 90-head limit on beef special premium claims and introduce a UK-wide national ceiling against which the need for scale-back will be assessed; both these decisions will be reviewed in the course of the year 2000.

We have also decided to implement the cut in suckler cow premium quota by reducing producers' holdings of quota on a flat-rate basis (probably at around 4 per cent); producers who have reduced production below their quota level as a result of participation in an EU-funded extensification scheme or who can show that the imposition of the cut would materially jeopardise the success of a development plan in progress on 1 January 2000 may apply for exemption from this quota cut.

We will increase from the year 2000 onwards the milk quota limit for dairy producers claiming suckler cow premium, from 120,000 kilograms to 180,000 kilograms.

We will apply the less restrictive two-tier model for extensification payments additional to payments under the beef special premium and suckler cow premium schemes; and assess eligibility for extensification payments on cattle numbers on producers' holdings on six dates each year, notified to producers retrospectively; this method of assessment will be reviewed as and when our cattle database becomes fully operational, when it includes movement details for older animals.

Dairy regime

In relation to the dairy regime, we will be extending the quota leasing deadline from 31 December to 31 March with effect from the next quota year. At the same time, the deadline for processing permanent transfers of quota via a lease of land--though not for other transfers--is being advanced to 1 March in order to ensure that the Intervention Board meets its deadline on the levy calculation. There was no widespread support for the other discretionary provisions set out in the consultation papers and these changes will not be implemented.

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CAP reforms agreed in Berlin also gave powers for member states to attach specific environmental conditions to agricultural support payments if they consider this to be appropriate. Our consultation exercise sought views on whether to introduce such conditions. Some relevant considerations in deciding whether to do so are: comprehensibility to farmers; ease of enforcement; environmental benefit; and extent of additional costs or regulatory burden for the generality of farmers.

We are still considering the responses to the England consultation on this issue. However, if following this consideration we identified possible cross-compliance measures, we would hold a further consultation exercise on any specific proposals before introducing them. Meanwhile, we will be retaining our existing cross-compliance measures which the UK has applied for some years, namely the current overgrazing condition in our livestock subsidy regimes and the management conditions for set-aside land.

Travel Insurance: Premium Tax

Lord Monson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How they justify taxing travel insurance on flights and holidays, however austere, at 3.5 times the rate applicable to insurance of property, however valuable. [HL245]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The higher rate of Insurance Premium Tax (IPT) applied to certain providers of travel insurance was introduced by the previous government to counter VAT avoidance by suppliers of holidays who were artificially manipulating the values from the taxable holiday component of the package to the VAT-exempt insurance element. The IPT higher rate was extended in 1998 to all providers of travel insurance; this retained the anti-avoidance measure while recognising that, with proposed changes to the market, the previous selective application of higher rate IPT might be inappropriate. The opportunity for value shifting does not normally arise with property insurance.

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