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Personal Incomes: Top Rate of Direct Tax

Lord Jacobs asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: Average earnings numbers are published in the new earnings survey table A30 and financial year averages for 1991-92 to 2000-01 are also published in Inland Revenue Statistics table 2.7. The table below gives the numbers requested.

Higher rate thresholdAverage earnings (annual)Average earnings (weekly)Average earnings as a % of the high rate threshold

Annual average earnings are the weekly figures multiplied by 52.

Average earnings figures are based on all full-time employees whose pay is unaffected by absence.

The higher rate threshold is the personal allowance plus the highest threshold for taxable income.

Task Forces, ad hoc Advisory Groups and Reviews

Lord Tomlinson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they will publish the next six-monthly update of information on task forces, ad hoc advisory groups and reviews established since 2 May 1997.[HL194]

The Minister of State, Cabinet Office (Lord Falconer of Thoroton): I have today placed in the Library of the House lists containing updated details about those live task forces, ad hoc advisory groups and reviews established between 2 May 1997 and 31 October 2000.

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The lists also contain details about those bodies that have been wound up during the period 1 May 2000 to 31 October 2000.

Defence Spending in Europe

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which countries in Europe have agreed to increase their defence spending; and in percentage terms by how much for each country.[HL13]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): For 2001, defence expenditure is expected to increase in real terms in the following European NATO countries: Denmark, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey and the UK. NATO receives detailed figures for defence expenditure from its member countries. However, in order to respect the confidentiality of nations these figures are not published.

Figures for other European Nations are not readily available. However, all NATO aspirant countries are committed to increasing their defence expenditure. These countries are Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia.

EU Defence Force: United States Reaction

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Following the quotation from United States Defense Secretary, Mr Bill Cohen, in the statement on the European Defence Co-operation by Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean on 22 November (H.L. Deb., col. 854), XLet me be clear on the American position. We agree with this goal, not grudgingly, not with resignation, but with wholehearted conviction", whether Mr Cohen also said that if the European Union set up a force which could go its own way it would be Xhighly ineffective, seriously wasteful of resources and contradictory to the basic principles of close NATO-European Union co-operation"; if so, whether the statement accurately reflected the Defense Secretary's views; and, if not, whether they will correct the statement in Parliament.[HL41]

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The US Secretary of Defence made a number of comments in a closed session of the NATO Defence Ministerial meeting on 5 December 2000. Speaking at his subsequent press conference, Mr Cohen said:

    XThe United States strongly supports the EU's efforts to create a rapid reaction capability that can deal swiftly and effectively with local challenges to Europe's security, where NATO as a whole is not engaged.";

before going on to say,

    XIf NATO and the EU with its ESDP (European Security and Defence Policy) are seen as autonomous and competing institutions, rather

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    than integrated, transparent and complementary ones, then NATO and collective security are likely to suffer, leaving North America and Europe alike to rely on uncoordinated, inefficient and ad hoc responses to destabilising threats".

The Government fully support this view and will ensure that the initiative continues to be developed in full co-operation with NATO.

My statement of 22 November does not need correction.

Coal-miners: Compensation Claims

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress has been made towards the settlement of compensation claims by former coal-miners for occupational diseases such as emphysema. [HL10]

The Minister for Science, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Sainsbury of Turville): To date we have made over 61,600 individual payments, in interim and full and final settlements, to former miners, and their families, with claims for respiratory and vibration related diseases.

Portsmouth Hospitals: Delayed Operations

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which hospitals in the Portsmouth area have had to delay patient operations due to the poor quality of surgical instruments; and what is the average period of delay; and [HL15] How many patients have been admitted to the Royal Hospital Haslar due to delayed patient operations in hospitals in the Portsmouth area. [HL16]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath): Waiting lists at the Queen Alexandra Hospital, part of the Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust, have been affected due to difficulties with their hospital sterilisation and decontamination unit. It is not possible to calculate the average period of delay from data held centrally.

An action plan is in place to address the problems, including installation of a new washer at Queen Alexandra Hospital and ordering an additional washer for St. Mary's Hospital, new maintenance/breakdown support arrangements; improved quality assurance methods; and the provision of £475,000 for the purchase of additional instruments, including orthopaedic instruments. In addition, spare capacity at other hospitals, including the Royal Hospital Haslar, is being identified. It is estimated that an additional 10 to 12 orthopaedic operations a week are being carried out on the Haslar site as a result.

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Passive Smoking: Departmental Policies

Lord Janner of Braunstone asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What steps they have taken or plan to take to protect their employees from the effects of passive smoking.[HL101]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: XSmoking Kills" committed all government departments to review their internal office smoking policies. The Department of Health has written to departments asking for progress reports. While we will press for the highest standards, the precise policy to be adopted in each case is a matter for the department concerned.

On 5 September the Health and Safety Commission announced that it favoured the introduction of an approved code of practice to safeguard the welfare of employees as far as environmental tobacco smoke in the workplace is concerned. The Government are considering their response.

Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme

Baroness Massey of Darwen asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they intend to publish the fourth report to Parliament on the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme.[HL198]

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath: The fourth report to Parliament on the Pharmaceutical Price Regulation Scheme (PPRS) was published today. Copies have been placed in the Library.

The PPRS: fourth report to Parliament covers both the conclusion of the 1993 scheme and the operation of the first year of the new scheme from October 1999. It provides an insight into the running of the PPRS; reports on the Government's broad objectives for the 1999 scheme; and describes the principal features of the new scheme, including the benefits for the National Health Service and the British pharmaceutical industry.

Special Areas of Conservation

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by Lord Whitty on 29 November (WA 134), whether when the European Commission asked member states to submit additional sites as potential special areas of conservation or special protection areas it acted in accordance with Article 174.3 of the Treaty Establishing the European Community: and, if so, why.[HL42]

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Whitty): The UK and other member states were asked to submit additional sites as special areas of conservation because the European Commission judged that site lists transmitted were insufficient. While Article 174.3 refers to Community policy on the environment, the Habitats Directive is legislation already in place. In these circumstances, therefore, which relate to judgments about whether member states have implemented directives sufficiently, Article 174.3 does not apply.

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