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20 Feb 1995 : Column WA55

Written Answers

Monday 20th February 1995

Pedestrians' Charter

Lord Beaumont of Whitley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to adopt the European Parliament's 1988 Charter of Pedestrian Rights; if so when; and if not why not.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): The Government endorse the intentions of the charter to promote the principle of pedestrians as road users, but we do not believe that it would be practicable to adopt all of its detailed requirements.

Defence Equipment Procurement: Belorussian Bids

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they hope to buy any weapons or weapons system from Belorussia.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Henley): The Government's policy when procuring defence equipment is to aim for best value for money. The prime means of achieving this is through the use of international competition for defence contracts, subject to international commitments and obligations, for example on non-proliferation. Suitably qualified companies in Belorussia may respond to invitations to tender for our contracts wherever they believe they can offer the best value for money. We would consider Belorussian bids on a case by case basis.

Burma: Attacks on the Karen People

Baroness Cox asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What measures they are taking through the European Union in response to the escalation of military offensives by the SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) regime against the Karen people in Burma.

Lord Inglewood: I refer the noble Baroness to the reply I gave to the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, on 16 February at col. WA53.

Baroness Cox asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What measures can be taken to monitor the conflict in Burma to ensure that the use of germ warfare would be detected should the SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council) regime use bacteriological devices in their offensives against the Karen, as is already alleged.

Lord Inglewood: We are aware of allegations that biological weapons have been used against the Karen people. Material and samples from Burma have recently been analysed by the Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment Porton Down (and other countries), but

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no trace of biological weapons agents were found. We will continue to monitor closely the developments in Burma, including testing samples when these are available.

Hospitals for Mentally Handicapped: Opposition to Closure

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to their Answer of 6th February 1995, H.L. WA3, how they judge the strength of local and family opposition to the proposed closure of the following long-stay hospitals for mentally handicapped people: Cell Barnes Hospital, St Ebbas Hospital, Turner Village Hospital, Llanfrechfa Grange Hospital, Northgate Hospital, Prudhoe Hospital, Meanwood Park Hospital, Ida Darwin Hospital, Calderstones Hospital, Leybourne Grange Hospital, Tilworth Grange Hospital, Clarefield Hospital, and whether they consider they are sufficiently well informed in taking these decisions.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): It is the responsibility of the local health and social services authorities, in consultation with users and carers, to determine the pattern of services for people with learning disabilities in their area in the light of local needs and resources. Proposals for hospital closures are subject to consultation by the local health authority, which should take account of all the views expressed in making its decision. Proposals are only referred to Ministers if the local community health council opposes closure and Ministers consider all issues raised carefully in making their decisions.

Multi-focus Hearing Aids

Lord Ashley of Stoke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the advantages of the multi-focus hearing aids over the standard provision in the NHS; and whether any such aids have been provided by the health service.

Baroness Cumberlege: The term "Multi-focus" is a registered trademark of a particular hearing aid manufacturer. It is claimed that the system can adjust automatically to adapt to the user's sound environment and it is set for the individual, so that no user controls are necessary. National Health Service hearing aid centres can prescribe aids of this type, where they are considered to be clinically necessary. Information about the extent of such provision is not held centrally.

NHS Hearing Aids

Lord Ashley of Stoke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What proposals there are to extend and improve the range of the NHS hearing aids.

Baroness Cumberlege: In April 1995 new contract arrangements through National Health Service

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Supplies will introduce an "in the ear" (ITE) modular hearing aid and a high frequency "behind the ear" (BTE) hearing aid to the current NHS range. Grey coloured hearing aids will also be available from April and the range of accessories will be extended to include such items as ear impression material, libbey horns, stops and syringes. The possibility of introducing a small to medium size BTE aid with automatic gain control for mild to severe hearing loss is also being explored.

Lord Ashley of Stoke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the cost of NHS hearing aid provision and by how much has it increased in real terms since 1979.

Baroness Cumberlege: Information is not available in the form requested. The total spend on hearing aids through National Health Service supplies (excluding the cost of value added tax, assessment, fitting and maintenance) since 1993–94 is as follows:

Year Approximate spend
£ million
1993–94 18.1
1994–95 19.6
1995–96 (projected) 20.2

Lord Ashley of Stoke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What surveys or research they have commissioned to show how many deaf and hard of hearing people are unlikely to have their hearing aid needs met by the standard NHS range.

Baroness Cumberlege: None. If there is no model from the standard range to meet a patient's needs another model may be supplied.

Lord Ashley of Stoke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many health authorities or trusts ration the funds available for paying for NHS patients to have the private hearing aids they need because of the nature of their hearing loss.

Baroness Cumberlege: The allocation of funds for the purchase of hearing aids, whether from the National Hearing Aids Purchasing Centre or directly from hearing aid manufacturers, is a matter for individual health authorities or National Health Service trusts.

Lord Ashley of Stoke asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many private hearing aid companies or consultants are operating from NHS premises.

Baroness Cumberlege: This information is not held centrally.

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NHS Trusts: Staff

Lord Molloy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many NHS Trusts will cut jobs this year in order to fund pay rises.

Baroness Cumberlege: Staffing levels are matters for determination by individual trusts.

NHS Trusts and Regional Health Authorities

The Earl of Bradford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the increase in numbers of NHS Trusts has led to a consequent reduction in the operating costs of Regional Health Authorities.

Baroness Cumberlege: The National Health Service reforms have devolved responsibilities to local level—to district health authorities for purchasing and trusts for providing healthcare. The success of this process has enabled the Government to reduce the number of regional health authorities (RHAs) from 14 to 8, and at the same time reduce their size and operating costs considerably.

The Health Authorities Bill draws the reforms to a conclusion and includes in its provisions the abolition of the RHAs. This is expected to produce total annual savings of some £100 million by 1997–98, which will be reinvested in patient care.

Live Animal Transport Welfare

Lord Molloy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What consideration they are giving to improving the conditions of transport of all live animals exported from the United Kingdom.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Earl Howe): The best way to improve conditions of transport for live animals exported from the United Kingdom is to secure Community-wide rules which set satisfactory standards for animal welfare. My right honourable friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has been pressing hard in Brussels for journey limits for live animal transport, and will be doing so again at the Agriculture Council meeting on 20 and 21 February.


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