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Lord Clement-Jones: My Lords, in a debate in March the Minister claimed that the department had no legal liability towards haemophiliac sufferers because blood testing was introduced as soon as technology was available. Recently, there have been reports in the Scotsman that regional directors of blood transfusion centres met in 1986 and decided not to go ahead with hepatitis C screening because of lack of time and resources. Does not that alter the complexion on the matter? Is it not high time the department altered its view and gave financial compensation to those sufferers?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I have not seen the report in the Scotsman. I shall be prepared to look at it if the noble Lord, Lord Clement-Jones, will pass it to me. But it is not my understanding that there is any move from the position that the English NHS was not shown to be at fault. As the noble Lord will understand, an inquiry by the Scottish Administration

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took place recently. However, that was not a general inquiry into hepatitis C and blood products. It looked specifically into whether or not Scottish haemophilia patients were exposed to the risks of hepatitis C for longer than they should have been, given the fact that Scotland developed successful heat treatment later than England. Scottish Ministers considered a report in that regard and concluded that there was no evidence that the relevant authorities did other than their best for patients.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes: My Lords, I ask the Minister to think again about his answer when he said that there was no evidence that recombinant was safer than normal blood products. I thought it had been clearly established that all hepatitis C infections came about because of the product being derived from normal blood. Is it not a fact that one of the big stumbling blocks has been VAT on the chemical product? As we have been told repeatedly that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would investigate that matter, can the Minister say whether he has done so because such a move could save many people from contracting hepatitis C?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, VAT issues are always under discussion, but I have seen no evidence that recombinant factors are more effective or safer than plasma-based products. That is the advice I have received. However, as I have said, I understand the concerns expressed by the haemophilia community and will be discussing them with the Manor House Group and the Haemophilia Society.

Earl Russell: My Lords, may I thank the Minister for small mercies? However, is he aware that the failure to respond to the question my noble friend Lord Clement-Jones asked about compensation discredits government and therefore diminishes the standard of our politics?

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: My Lords, I did not fail to respond to the noble Lord but I reiterated the Government's decision in the light of the careful review which they undertook when they came to office. These are difficult decisions but nevertheless one was arrived at--and it was the appropriate decision.

Heathrow: Fifth Terminal Inquiry

2.51 p.m.

Lord Jenkins of Putney asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to receive the report of the inspector appointed to inquire into the proposal for a fifth terminal at Heathrow airport.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): My Lords, the public inquiry into the proposed fifth terminal at Heathrow closed in March 1999. The inquiry inspector then said that he

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intended to deliver his report within two years of the end of the inquiry but that he hoped to improve on that.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, I hope that the length of the report indicates that the issue is being examined with great thoroughness. I am sure that my noble friend will agree with that. However, is he aware that a fifth terminal at Heathrow would overcrowd a situation which is already verging on the dangerous? It is surprising that it takes two years to come to a conclusion which one might have thought was verging on the obvious.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, the inspector has taken what he considers to be appropriate time for the report. It would be wrong of me to comment further.

Lord Berkeley: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that even before the inspector has delivered his report on the fifth terminal, certain airlines, including BA, are reported to have been demanding a sixth terminal and a third runway at Heathrow? Will he pass to the airlines the Government's suggestion that the days of predicting and providing are over, because thought must be given to the severe environmental effects both in the air and on the ground?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, before I answer that question I want to point out that anything I say has no bearing on the Terminal 5 decision. Clearly, there is a problem of congestion on the ground as well as in the air and the environmental dimensions of aviation policy need to be addressed in the context of all those decisions.

Lord Clinton-Davis: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that evidence has been given to the inquiry in one direction by the CAA, the BAA, the airlines and the trade unions concerned? Is that right or wrong?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, it would be totally inappropriate for me to comment on the evidence given to the inquiry.

Lord Hunt of Chesterton: My Lords, will the Government ensure that future plans for Heathrow will be consistent with their new noise strategy? Are they aware that studies carried out by the Department of Health show that noise has a significant impact on children learning at school, which should also be taken into account in any development plans for the area?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, again, I want to point out that anything I say in reply to the question has no bearing on the Terminal 5 decision. It is important to recognise that the noise climate around Heathrow has substantially improved during the past two decades. There has been a significant decrease in noise despite a substantial increase in the number of movements.

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However, today the Government are announcing new noise limits for aircraft departing from Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted to be implemented from 25th February 2001. The main provisions will be a reduction in the daytime noise levels by three decibels to 94 between 0700 hrs and 2300 hrs and during the night period the noise levels will be reduced by two decibels to 87.

As regards the health aspect, there is a need to take that into account in the forward development of noise policies.

Earl Attlee: My Lords, will the Minister say how much the inquiry has cost?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I believe that the total cost of the inquiry has been in the public arena. However, I cannot immediately turn to the amount. I shall write to the noble Earl.

Lord Faulkner of Worcester: My Lords, regardless of the decision which is ultimately taken about Terminal 5--and I am trying to be of help--does not my noble friend agree that it is imperative that public transport links to Heathrow airport are improved? In particular, will the Government take a sympathetic view of the plans to extend the Heathrow Express westwards, so that it will cover Reading and points west, and the plans for the new rail link from the south?

Lord Whitty: My Lords, again, without commenting on the Terminal 5 decision, surface access to Heathrow and other airports is an important dimension. All parties at Heathrow and other main airports are intent on increasing access by public transport of all kinds. The strategy for so doing is being developed within London and by the BAA and other authorities at Heathrow.

In order to avoid my letter to the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, being lost in the Christmas post, perhaps I may indicate that the total cost of the inquiry to all participants is estimated at #83 million. Of that amount, the private sector is estimated to have spent some #64 million and in terms of government money the DETR and its agencies have spent some #6.2 million.

Lord Jenkins of Putney: My Lords, does my noble friend believe that the long period taken to produce the report is indicative of a thorough examination being undertaken, not merely providing an opportunity for an untoward event to occur in the meantime? Let us hope that all will go well during the two years and that the conclusion will be that which I should have thought was obvious at the beginning; that Heathrow does not need and should not have a fifth terminal.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, I note my noble friend's remarks but further than that I could not possibly comment.

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Hazardous Waste

2.58 p.m.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are contemplating any re-designation of hazardous waste products in order that they may be used as fuel.

Lord Whitty: My Lords, no. The definitions of "waste" and "hazardous waste" are set out in European Community directives. We cannot, therefore, unilaterally redesignate wastes as "products" or hazardous wastes as "non-hazardous" in order to facilitate their use as fuel. Many wastes and some hazardous wastes are already used as fuels in certain industrial processes and power-producing facilities. The use of waste as a fuel is strictly controlled as a waste recovery operation.

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