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To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in order to help curb alcohol abuse by young people, they will consider trebling the excise duty on strong cider so as to bring it broadly into line with the excise duty on beer of a similar strength. [HL5624]
The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): The Government take the problems associated with alcohol misuse seriously. The Government published their alcohol strategy Safe, Sensible, Social in June 2007. This commits all departments to work together to address a society-wide problem.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what measures have been taken to maintain aircraft carrier operating capabilities during the deployment of Joint Force Harrier on Operation Herrick in Afghanistan. [HL5667]
The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): While the UK Harrier force was on active service in Afghanistan, a minimum level of aircraft carrier operating capabilities was maintained through routine embarkations of UK Harrier aircraft and Harriers from other nations.
In 2007, a total of 26 aircraft from the US, Spanish and Italian navies embarked on Her Majesty's ships. These aircraft were participating in joint exercises with the UK. No such aircraft embarked in 2008 and no such embarkations are planned for 2009.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether parents of service personnel are allowed access to the Brize Norton military base to collect their offspring on arrival from overseas duties or deliver them to leave for overseas duties when one or more of the parents holds a non-United Kingdom passport. [HL5614]
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will issue appropriate identification permits to parents of service personnel in order that they may access the Brize Norton military base to collect their offspring on arrival from overseas duties or deliver them to leave for overseas duties. [HL5615]
The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): Parents of service personnel are permitted access to RAF Brize Norton by prior arrangement with the station. The station publishes a passenger terminal information leaflet, which sets out the procedure for UK nationals and non-UK nationals. This enables parents to gain temporary passes to access the terminal in order to drop off or collect a passenger. The leaflet can be downloaded from the following website: www.raf.mod.uk/rafbrizenorton/flyinginfo/airterminal.cfm.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what are the arrangements for payment of excess baggage charges when service personnel use commercial airlines on returning from home leave to base carrying their military kit and equipment. [HL5617]
The Minister for International Defence and Security (Baroness Taylor of Bolton): There is no entitlement for service personnel to reclaim excess baggage charges when travelling on leave. Service personnel are not expected to take their military kit and equipment home on leave with them; they should either leave it on base, or transfer it between bases using the military facilities available to them. However, if they do take their kit home, this is done as a matter of personal choice and convenience rather than service need. Therefore, any excess baggage charges incurred will be at personal expense, with payment being made directly by the passenger to the carrier.
When personnel are travelling on official duty-for example, when returning to a home unit following duty elsewhere-excess baggage can, in some circumstances, be permitted if authorised in advance of travel. At the time of booking, an annotation is made on the ticket confirming that excess baggage is authorised and the MoD can then be billed accordingly without the passenger incurring any charges. But if it is not agreed in advance, the individual will be liable for excess baggage charges at check-in. Refunds may be permitted through the unit administrative staff if circumstances are such that arrangements could not be made in advance of travel or an administrative error has occurred.
When any service person feels that their circumstances have fallen outside current policy and that they are being unfairly disadvantaged, they may always submit casework to the pay and allowance casework and complaints cell in accordance with established service procedures, requesting exceptional consideration.
To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, in the light of their facilitation of the takeover of HBOS by Lloyds Bank and their 43 per cent holding in the merged company, they will resist any attempt by the European Commission to force Lloyds Banking Group to divest itself of bank accounts or business subsidiaries. [HL5556]
The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): Talks with the European Commission about Lloyds Banking Group and possible state aid restructuring measures are ongoing and an announcement will be made in due course.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): The Green Paper Shaping the Future of Care Together lays out the Government's vision for a national care service and considers how we can make this fair, simple and affordable for everyone. As part of this, we will need to consider how best to target resources at those most in need of support. The Green Paper is an opportunity to consider a range of options on how best to achieve this. We are currently consulting on all of the options considered in the Green Paper, in our Big Care Debate, which will run until 13 November this year.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Children, Schools and Families (Baroness Morgan of Drefelin): Four hundred and five staff (based on full-time equivalents) work in the Young People Directorate, organised around five groups focused on improving the outcomes for all young people in England.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): Departmental officials asked for this work to be done before a new Secretary of State was appointed. It cost £287.36 (excluding VAT) to repaint the inner walls of the Secretary of State's private office.
To ask Her Majesty's Government which initiatives of HM Treasury or its agencies have been advertised in each of the past five years; how much was spent in each case; and which were carried out via the Central Office of Information. [HL5325]
The Financial Services Secretary to the Treasury (Lord Myners): There have been no initiatives advertised by either the Debt Management Office or the Office of Government Commerce between 2004-05 and 2008-09. HM Treasury ran media campaigns through the Central Office of Information for stakeholder savings and investment products at a cost of £3,032,000 in 2005-06 and the Money Guidance service and the FSA's Moneymadeclear service at a cost of £2,250,000 in 2008-09. These figures do not include regular recruitment advertising.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what recent advice has been published by the Chief Medical Officer and the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence on the side-effects of prescribed drugs. [HL5568]
Baroness Thornton: The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) routinely considers the side-effects of specific treatments when developing its recommendations on clinical and cost effectiveness and such information is contained in NICE's published guidance available on its website at www.nice.org.uk.
The safety of all medicines is kept under continuous review by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency in conjunction with its independent scientific advisory body, the Commission on Human Medicines.
Baroness Thornton: The issue of withdrawal reactions following use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) has been under close review by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and its predecessor, the Medicines Control Agency, since the early 1990s. Any new data have been carefully evaluated as they become available and updated advice issued as appropriate.
Warnings about the risk of withdrawal reactions upon stopping treatment with SSRIs have been included in the patient information leaflets (PILs) for SSRIs for many years. Following a comprehensive review by an expert working group on the safety of SSRIs, established by the Committee on Safety of Medicines, the warnings in the product information for prescribers and the PILs were updated to include clear and detailed advice on the management of withdrawal. A thorough evaluation of all available data coupled with feedback from patients and patient organisations informed the updates.
Current National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence guidance recommends clearly that all patients prescribed antidepressants should be informed about the risk of withdrawal reactions and the importance of gradual withdrawal over several weeks. The British National Formulary (BNF), which is distributed by the Department of Health to doctors and community pharmacies, also contains information on withdrawal reactions following stopping treatment with SSRIs. The MHRA is in discussion with the BNF over whether there is scope for further updates to this information to aid discussions between prescribers and patients.
To ask Her Majesty's Government when they intend to hold a debate on the Department of Health's response to the report of the Independent Public Inquiry, headed by Lord Archer of Sandwell, into the 1,937 deaths of haemophilia patients caused by contaminated NHS blood and blood products. [HL5530]
Baroness Thornton: I refer the noble Lord to Lord Darzi's Answer of 3 June to Lord Morris (Official Report, col.WA92). The decision on whether to hold a debate on the government response to the Archer report remains a matter for the House business managers.
Baroness Thornton: Yes. They may make their request in any manner they wish. However, clinicians cannot be compelled to provide the particular treatment requested. In deciding upon such a request from a patient, healthcare professionals may need to make a distinction between requests for fluids to keep the patient comfortable and hydration for a purpose that they consider to be "clinically unnecessary, futile, or inappropriate".1
Baroness Thornton: Yes. A person aged 18 or over who has the capacity to make such a decision may make an advance decision to refuse any treatment and, unless it relates to life-sustaining treatment, may do so verbally or in writing. An advance decision to refuse life-sustaining treatment has to be in writing, be signed and witnessed, and contain clear statements that it applies even if life is at risk. Where a person has made no advance decision and lacks the capacity to consent to a particular form of treatment, healthcare professionals should make decisions based upon the patient's best interests, where practical taking account of the views of those close to them.
The Chairman of Committees (Lord Brabazon of Tara): The Refreshment Department currently offers the following fair trade items: hot drinks such as tea, coffee and chocolate; confectionery bars, biscuits and cakes; sugar sachets; and bananas when they are available. The department looks to expand the range of fair trade products whenever new goods are being procured.
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Department for Work and Pensions (Lord McKenzie of Luton): The department does not publish forecasts for housebuilding. In 2008, 142,400 new-build dwellings were completed in England.
The latest statistics on housebuilding starts and completions in England were published in the Communities and Local Government statistics release of 20 August 2009 and accompanying live tables. The web links are show below:link to housebuilding statistics release: http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/corporate/statistics/housebuildingq22009; andlink to housebuilding live tables:http://www.communities.gov.uk/housing/housingresearch/housingstatistics/housingstatisticsby/housebuilding/livetables/.
Lord McKenzie of Luton:Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing (PPS3) sets out the Government's policy on planning for housing. It sets a national annual target that at least 60 per cent of new housing should be provided on previously developed land (brownfield land). In 2008, on a provisional estimate, 79 per cent of dwellings (including conversions) were built on previously developed land. The Government have no plans to review PPS3 at the present time.
To ask Her Majesty's Government what incentives are being provided to private landlords and developers to build more houses to rent; and what other measures they are considering to increase the availability of rental accommodation. [HL5606]
Lord McKenzie of Luton: In May this year, the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) launched its private sector renting initiative with the priority of encouraging new long-term institutional and other equity investors into the private rented sector. At the same time, this Government published their response to the Rugg review of the private rented sector. The government response contained wide-ranging proposals aimed at improving the professionalism and quality of the sector and thereby creating a supportive framework for its growth.
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