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Lord Fearn asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport (Baroness Blackstone): Local authorities are statutorily required to provide a public library service under the 1964 Public Libraries and Museums Act. Local authorities receive funding for those public libraries for which they are responsible through general grant and through council tax. General grant has this year increased by some £2.4 billion, which is an increase of 5.9 per cent. Government grant to councils has increased by 25 per cent in real terms since 1997. It is for local authorities to decide how to spend the funds available.

Local authorities seeking to build new libraries can apply to the DCMS for private finance initiative credits, and the award-winning new central library in Bournemouth was funded by a PFI project.

West Antarctic Ice Sheet

Lord Judd asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty): In research commissioned by Defra, an interdisciplinary panel of experts were asked to summarise the state of scientific knowledge and uncertainty and estimate the risk of a sea level rise of over four metres due to the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS). The study revealed a wide range of opinions on the stability of the WAIS and concluded that it would most likely not collapse in the next few centuries, although they estimate a 50 per cent probability of WAIS causing sea level rise of at least 10mm per year within 200 years. There is still much uncertainty about the behaviour of the WAIS: whether it is still adjusting to changes after the last ice age and how it will respond to climate warming and contribute to sea level rise. Both the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and the Hadley Centre continue to assess the impacts of climate change on ice sheets both in the Arctic and the Antarctic through observational and modelling studies. The collapse of the WAIS over a period of centuries would raise sea levels by some six metres with a major impact on low-lying countries and coastlines.

International action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the Kyoto Protocol is the first step in a long process to reduce emissions enough to stabilise greenhouse gases at a level which avoids dangerous anthropogenic climate change. There is

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however no international consensus as to what that level should be. The EU has proposed that carbon dioxide concentrations below 550 parts per million should guide emission reduction efforts, but what level would be required that to avoid loss of the WAIS is a matter for further research.

Fisheries: No Take Zones

Lord Hunt of Chesterton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the light of the achievement of the Lundy fisheries no take zone, how widely they will apply the no take zone tool; what the legislative basis of the tool will be; and how they will support such initiatives of local communities in the future.[HL2960]

Lord Whitty: No take zones are one of the range of tools available to fisheries managers and each needs to be considered on a case by case basis. The size of the no take zone, the fish present and patterns of fishing activity are among the factors to be considered in assessing such proposals.

The department has grant aided a voluntary shellfisheries no take zone off St Agnes Head, put forward by Cornwall County Council with the support of local fishermen. Another proposal to identify further the potential for no take zones around Cornwall is under consideration.

The legislative basis for a no take zone could be a Sea Fisheries Committee byelaw, as in the case of the Lundy no take zone, or national or EU legislation.

Customs and Excise: Detection of Meat Smuggling

Lord Rotherwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many additional mobile anti-smuggling detection teams and trained dogs have been deployed by HM Customs and Excise since 11 April when they took over responsibility for anti-smuggling controls on meat.[HL3103]

Lord McIntosh of Haringey : To tackle its new responsibilities Customs plans to add an additional four mobile strike force teams of detection staff and an additional four meat detector dogs to the two the department inherited from DEFRA.

Since 11 April, and while recruitment of the new teams is progressed, Customs has adjusted deployment priorities to deal with illegal imports of meat using existing static and mobile teams of anti-smuggling detection staff. The existing meat detector dogs and handlers transferred to Customs on 1 May have also been deployed.

Lord Rotherwick asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many convictions for the smuggling of illegal meat have been recorded on the central database of HM Customs and Excise since 11 April.[HL3104]

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Lord McIntosh of Haringey : No convictions for the smuggling of illegal meat have been recorded by Customs since 11 April and it is too early to say whether inquiries into certain seizures made since 11 April will result in prosecutions.

NHS: Management Costs

Baroness Noakes asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the rationale for excluding non-staff overhead costs from the definition of National Health Service management costs.[HL3034]

Baroness Andrews: The most rigorous method for measuring the cost of management would be to start with the definition of the activities that constitute management. The amount of time each member of staff spent on those activities would then be calculated and costed but even if a list of activities could be agreed upon, such a method would be prone to subjectivity and inconsistent application. It would also be extremely time-consuming and bureaucratic to undertake. The method adopted is based on management posts.

Not all the running costs of primary care trusts and National Health Service trusts cover activities that are classed as management, unlike strategic health authorities and former health authorities, whose management cost definition includes elements for both staff and non-staff costs as their running costs do cover activities that are classed as management.


Lord Tomlinson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether there is new advice on the treatment of depressive illness in children and adolescents under 18 years.[HL3296]

Baroness Andrews : Following interest in both Houses about the issues surrounding the safety of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), including Seroxat, we are informing the House of new advice from the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) against the use of Seroxat in children under the age of 18 for the treatment of depressive illness.

New data from clinical trials in children and adolescents were received by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) at the end of May 2003. These new data have been reviewed by an expert working group on SSRIs and the CSM. These data do not demonstrate efficacy in depressive illness in this age group and show an

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increase in the risk of events including episodes of self-harm and potentially suicidal behaviour in the Seroxat group compared to placebo. Various analyses suggest that the risk of these events is between 1.5 and 3.2 times greater with Seroxat compared to placebo. On the basis of these data, CSM has advised that the balance of risks and benefits of Seroxat is unfavourable when used to treat depressive illness in this age group. CSM has advised that Seroxat should not be used in children and adolescents under the age of 18 years to treat depressive illness. Ministers have accepted the committee's advice.

Seroxat is not and never has been licensed for use in those under 18 but it is used in this age group outside its licensed indications where prescribers make a judgement on their own responsibility that it is the right treatment for a particular patient.

SSRIs, including Seroxat, have been under close continuous review by the MHRA and the CSM for a number of years with the CSM issuing advice in 2000 and 2001. The product information for SSRI antidepressants already contains advice that suicidal thoughts and behaviour are likely to increase in the early stages of treatment of depression (as with all antidepressants) and patient information leaflets already contain advice to seek medical advice urgently in the event of such symptoms.

The recent concerns expressed by patient groups and in the media over the safety of Seroxat have been taken very seriously. In response to concerns of an association of Seroxat with withdrawal reactions and suicidal behaviour, a new expert working group of the CSM has been convened to further review the safety of SSRIs and to ensure the advice in the product information for both patients and prescribers is optimal for the safe use of these products. This group will be incorporating the experiences of patients in its safety evaluation.

Communications to patients and prescribers are taking place today. The expert working group of the CSM, convened to look at the wider issues relating to the safety of SSRIs, will examine urgently what implications, if any, these new findings have for the use of Seroxat in adults and for other SSRIs. The benefits of taking Seroxat are well established and patients over 18 and patients who are benefiting from Seroxat should not be frightened into stopping their medication. Patients who are experiencing any side effects or are concerned about their treatment should discuss these with their doctor.

The Government are committed to ensuring that the wider aspects of suicide prevention remain at the top of the agenda and the National Institute for Mental Health in England has made suicide prevention one of its core policy programmes.

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