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Written Answers to Questions

Monday 19 April 1993

DEFENCE

Iraq Captives

Dr. David Clark : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what consideration he has given to the provisions of interim compensation payments to those service personnel who were held captive by the Iraqi Government after the invasion of Kuwait ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : It has been the policy of successive Governments that payments should not be made from public funds to claimants against a foreign Government in anticipation of the payment of compensation from that Government.

Dr. David Clark : To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what information he has about the provision of interim compensation payments to foreign service personnel who were held captive by the Iraqi Government after the invasion of Kuwait ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Archie Hamilton : I am not aware of any foreign Government who have made interim compensation payments.

PRIME MINISTER

Honours System

Mr. Gordon Prentice : To ask the Prime Minister how many individuals have written to him since his statement of 8 March proposing themselves as recipients of honours.

The Prime Minister : Over 1,600 names have been put forward to the honours nominations unit since I made my statement to the House on changes to the honours system. Based on a check of a sample of the nominations, it is likely that about a dozen are self-nominations.

Mr. Gordon Prentice : To ask the Prime Minister how many staff were employed at No. 10 Downing street to administer the honours system in 1992 : and what increase in their number is planned.

The Prime Minister [holding answer 15 April 1993] : The honours section in 10 Downing street consisted of six staff in 1992. Numbers will be kept under review in the normal way to reflect changes in the work load.

Sir John Cuckney

Mr. Rogers : To ask the Prime Minister what Government tasks are currently carried out by Sir John Cuckney.

The Prime Minister : Sir John Cuckney is currently chairman of the Maxwell Pensioners Trust and adviser to


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the Department of Social Security's Maxwell pensions unit. Both appointments were made by the Secretary of State for Social Security. In addition, Sir John serves as a trustee of the Royal Air Force museum, an appointment made by the Secretary of State for Defence.

Pakistan

Mr. Vaz : To ask the Prime Minister when he next plans to visit Pakistan.

The Prime Minister : I am keen to take up an invitation from the Pakistan Prime Minister to visit Pakistan, and will do so when time permits.

Political Parties (Donations)

Mr. Rogers : To ask the Prime Minister if he will introduce legislation to prevent the use of bank loans from offshore tax havens to political parties in the United Kingdom.

The Prime Minister : I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to him on 18 March, at column 357.

BCCI

Mr. Vaz : To ask the Prime Minister how many letters he has received concerning compensation for the victims of BCCI.

The Prime Minister : I have received numerous representations.

Royal Bank of Scotland

Mr. Rogers : To ask the Prime Minister what Government Departments hold bank accounts with the Royal Bank of Scotland ; and which of those accounts are at Drummonds branch.

The Prime Minister : No central records are maintained showing which Departments use which banks. Government Departments may use the services of clearing banks without reference to the Treasury when the arrangements offer good value for money.

India

Mr. Vaz : To ask the Prime Minister what discussions he has had with the Indian High Commissioner following the bomb blasts in Bombay in March.

The Prime Minister : I expressed my personal sympathy to the Indian high commissioner as soon as I heard of the explosions and loss of life in Bombay, and also sent messages to the Indian Prime Minister and the Governor of Bombay conveying condolences and offering practical help.

Local Authorities (Private Capital)

Mr. Blunkett : To ask the Prime Minister what plans he has to lift restrictions governing the use of private capital by local authorities, laid down in the Local Government and Housing Act 1989.

The Prime Minister : We have no such plans. However, it is already open to local authorities to enter into partnerships with the private sector and draw upon private finance.


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Mr. Salman Rushdie

Mr. Winnick : To ask the Prime Minister when he now expects to meet Mr. Salman Rushdie.

The Prime Minister : I expect to meet Mr. Rushdie shortly.

EDUCATION

English Tests

Lady Olga Maitland : To ask the Secretary of State for Education if it remains his policy to conduct English tests for 14-year-olds following decisions by teachers about boycotts.

Mr. Forth : Yes. The English tests for 14-year-olds to be conducted this summer are the product of three years of trials in schools, involving hundreds of teachers and thousands of pupils. It is the statutory duty of head teachers to implement them, and the professional and contractual duty of teachers to carry them out.

Bangladeshi Population

Ms. Ruddock : To ask the Secretary of State for Education what steps have been taken since 1986 to improve educational standards and opportunities for the Bangladeshi population in Britain.

Mr. Forth : Successive educational reforms since 1986, including the Education Bill now before Parliament, have been designed to raise standards and improve opportunities for all pupils, whatever their ethnic or cultural background. As they take effect, Bangladeshi pupils are sharing in the benefit. Grants paid to local authorities under section 11 of the Local Government Act 1966 are supporting projects designed to meet the particular educational needs of Bangladeshi pupils, including English language support.

Bengali may now be studied in schools in fulfilment of the national curriculum requirement that all pupils aged 11 to 16 must study a modern foreign language. Funding has been provided through GEST--grants for education support and training--for three projects specifically for Bangladeshi pupils. Bangladeshi community groups are also benefiting from the ethnic minority grant introduced in April 1992 to give ethnic minorities equal access to training and enterprise opportunities.

WALES

Local Plans

Mr. Gareth Wardell : To ask the Secretary of State for Wales if he will list those local authorities in Wales which have no local plan.

Mr. David Hunt : The following local planning authorities have no adopted local plans.

Alyn and Deeside District Council

Carmarthen District Council

Ceredigion District Council

Glyndwr District Council

Montgomeryshire District Council

Neath Borough Council

Preseli Pembrokeshire District Council

Rhuddlan Borough Council

South Pembrokeshire District Council

Taff-Ely Borough Council


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SCOTLAND

Legal Aid

Mr. Salmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland, pursuant to his answer of 19 March, Official Report, column 438, if he will give comparable figures for the cost of administering legal aid in Scotland through the local legal aid committees in each of the five years prior to the establishment of the Scottish Legal Aid Board in 1987 ; and if he will make a statement.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton : Unlike the Scottish Legal Aid Board, the former Law Society legal aid central committee and the local legal aid committees dealt only with the merits of civil legal applications. The committees did not undertake assessments of the means of applicants for civil legal aid, which were assessed by DHSS and latterly the Scottish Office. Nor did they have any responsibility for summary criminal legal aid applications, which were dealt with by the courts. Comparable administrative cost figures are therefore not available.

Saztec Europe Ltd.

Mr. Cousins : To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what industrial grants or support have been paid to Saztec Europe Ltd., Ardrossan.

Mr. Stewart [holding answer 15 April 1993] : Saztec Europe Ltd., formerly Saztec Scotland Ltd., received assistance in 1986 under the now terminated regional development grants scheme. This scheme offered automatic grants if the applicant met the appropriate criteria.

The conditions attaching to the grant were met.

HEALTH

Warner Report

Mr. Redmond : To ask the Secretary of State for Health when she now expects to make a statement on the Warner report.

Mr. Yeo : The responses to the consultation exercise are being considered. I hope to announce the Government's response to the report next month.

Drugs Trials

Mr. Blunkett : To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if she will make a statement on her policy on the use in the NHS of post-marketing surveillance trials by drugs companies ;

(2) if she will list the drugs used by the NHS in post-marketing surveillance trials in the last 12 months ; and if she will make a statement.

Dr. Mawhinney : Post-marketing surveillance studies are the responsibility of pharmaceutical companies and not the NHS or the Department of Health. These studies are designed to gain information on the safety of medicines in everyday clinical practice and therefore could not be done without the involvement of the NHS. Voluntary guidelines on the conduct of company-sponsored PMS studies have been in force since 1988. Under these guidelines, companies are requested to provide information on these studies to the Medicines Control Agency.


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The MCA has reviewed PMS studies conducted under the guidelines and their findings were published in the British Medical Journal in June 1992. In the light of these findings, the guidelines are now being reviewed.

Information supplied by companies to the MCA is considered confidential under section 118 of the Medicines Act 1968. A list of individual drugs on which PMS studies are being conducted cannot therefore be published by the Department of Health.

Zoladex

Mr. Morgan : To ask the Secretary of State for Health what guidelines have been issued in relation to the prescribing of Zoladex by (a) hospital consultants and (b) general practitioners ; and what proposals she has for further actions on this front.

Dr. Mawhinney : Prescribing information on Zoladex is available to all doctors in the British National Formulary, which the Department issues free of charge to all prescribers, and in the data sheet for this product, which is produced by the manufacturer and authorised by the licensing authority. This information is applicable to both hospital consultants and general practitioners. There are no plans at present to issue additional guidelines on Zoladex, but, as with all medicines, its safety is monitored by the Medicines Control Agency.

HEALTH

Comfrey

Mr. David Nicholson : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) whether he proposes to carry out further research on the toxicological data on comfrey, with a view to determining a level of safe use ; and if he will make a statement ;

(2) what pyrrolizidine alkaloids are found in comfrey ; and if he will indicate which of these is of proven toxicity.

Mr. Sackville : I have been asked to reply.

Common comfrey (symphytum officinale) and Russian comfrey (symphytum X uplandicum) are believed to be the varieties commonly used in herbal food supplements. The following pirrolizidine alkaloids have been identified and reported in the scientific literature as being present in either common or Russian comfrey or in both.

Symphytine

Echimidine

Acetyl-echimidine

Lycopsamine

7-acetyl lycopsamine

Symlandine

Echinatine

Heliosupine

Acetyl-heliosupine

Intermidine

7-acetyl intermidine

Uplandicine

Viridiflorine

in common comfrey but not in Russian comfrey.

in Russian comfrey.

in both common and Russian comfrey.

The majority of alkaloids found in comfrey have not been tested for toxicity. The results of studies on symphtine suggest that it may be genotoxic and carcinogenic. There is some evidence to suggest that


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echimidine and echinatine may be genotoxic. Whilst the toxicity data on the individual alkaloids found in comfrey are limited, there is evidence from studies using laboratory animals that the dried leaves and roots of common comfrey are potentially carcinogenic. The Government's independent expert advisory committee, the Committee on Toxicity of Food, Consumer Products and the Environment, reviewed data including that on four cases of human liver damage associated with the consumption of comfrey preparations. It considered the data to be of sufficient concern to warrant action in the interests of public safety and recommended that action should be taken to reduce the intake of comfrey and its potentially toxic constituents.

It is for the manufacturers of preparations using comfrey to submit to the Government the results of research into the safety of other products if they so wish. The Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment advised that further toxicological testing would provide results of limited use in toxicological evaluations.

NATIONAL FINANCE

Electricity

Mr. John D. Taylor : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer under which vote sub-head the proceeds of the sale of the former NIE generating stations were accounted for.

Mr. Lamont : Northern Ireland estimates 1992-93, Department of Economic Development, vote 4.

Environmental Protection

Mr. Llew Smith : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what matters in regard to investment in environmental protection were discussed and decided at the G-7 meeting of Finance Ministers in Tokyo on 14-15 April.

Mr. Nelson : Nuclear safety in Russia and dumping of radioactive waste at sea were discussed at the meeting. The meeting reaffirmed the commitment of the G7 to the full and timely implementation of the multilateral programme of action to improve nuclear safety in Russia agreed at the Munich summit.

Bank of Credit and Commerce International

Mr. Vaz : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer how many letters he has received concerning compensation for the victims of BCCI.

Mr. Nelson : The Treasury has received some 800 letters about BCCI since the bank was closed. It would be possible to identify how many of these were about compensation only at disproportionate cost.

Tax Changes

Mr. Frank Field : To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will update, to take account of the 1993 Budget, the information on tax changes contained in his answer to the hon. Member for Bradford, West (Mr. Madden) of 29 June 1992, Official Report, column 380.

Mr. Dorrell : Latest estimates of the annual change in income tax liability resulting from the changes in tax rates,


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allowances and thresholds announced in the 1993 Budget are in the table. The 1978-79 income tax regime has been indexed to 1993-94 levels by reference to the statutory formula, and allowing for independent taxation.

For the purposes of these calculations the indexed regime of 1978-79 is applied directly to the income base of 1993-94. In practice, retention of the regime indexed as appropriate, for the intervening years would have led to changes in the income base.


Average reduction in income tax per individual<1> in 1993-94                                        

compared with the 1978-79 indexed regime                                                            

Range of            |Number of          |Total reduction    |Average reduction                      

individual's income |individuals                                                                    

in 1993-94          |1993-94<1>                                                                     

(£)                 |(million)          |(£ million)        |(£ per annum)                          

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Under 5,000         |3.20               |450                |140                                    

 5,000 to 10,000    |8.00               |3,000              |380                                    

10,000 to 15,000    |6.10               |4,500              |740                                    

15,000 to 20,000    |3.70               |4,000              |1,100                                  

20,000 to 30,000    |3.30               |5,400              |1,620                                  

30,000 to 50,000    |1.20               |3,000              |2,520                                  

50,000 to 80,000    |0.28               |2,100              |7,730                                  

Over 80,000         |0.14               |6,400              |45,500                                 

                    |-------            |-------            |-------                                

Total               |26.00              |28,900             |1,100                                  

<1> Individuals liable to income tax under the 1978-79 indexed regime.                              

LORD CHANCELLOR'S DEPARTMENT

Legal Aid

Mr. McNamara : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, what reports have been produced by the Northern Ireland court service with regard to the operation of the legal aid scheme in Northern Ireland ; and if he will place these reports in the Library.

Mr. John M. Taylor : No reports have been produced by the Northern Ireland court service with regard to the operation of the legal aid scheme in Northern Ireland. Such reports are produced annually by the Law Society of Northern Ireland and are referred to the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Committee on Legal Aid in Northern Ireland for consideration and advice pursuant to article 23(3) of the Legal Aid, Advice and Assistance (Northern Ireland) Order 1981. These reports and the Lord Chancellor's advisory committee reports are placed in the Library.

Mr. McNamara : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, what progress has been made by the Northern Ireland court service in consolidating Northern Ireland's legal aid regulations ; and what has been the reason for the time taken in consolidating these regulations.

Mr. John M. Taylor : Considerable progress has been made by the Northern Ireland court service in preparation of the regulations which will revise the Legal Aid (General) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1965. This exercise, which is at an advanced stage, involves primarily a consolidation of existing provisions, but the opportunity is also being taken to improve and modernise the regulations in some respects. The exercise has been held in abeyance pending the resolution of a number of points of detail. It is expected


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that these will be resolved within the next month, and that it will be possible to bring forward the new regulations later this year.

Mr. McNamara : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, whether he intends to set up a Legal Aid Board for Northern Ireland.

Mr. John M. Taylor : In the light of the establishment of independent legal aid boards for England and Wales and Scotland, the Lord Chancellor has been reviewing the arrangements for the administration of legal aid in Northern Ireland with the aim of effecting improvements to the present system. One of the options for consideration is the establishment of an independent legal aid board. There have already been preliminary discussions with the Law Society of Northern Ireland and it is expected that these will continue. Following the completion of the review, the Lord Chancellor will bring forward proposals.

Mr. McNamara : To ask the Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Chancellor's Department, what plans he has to extend to Northern Ireland the research he has commissioned into the operation of legal aid in respect of eligibility, the green form scheme and advice and assistance at police stations.


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