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Complementary, Alternative and Herbal Medicines: EC Consideration

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): We are unaware of any such consideration. The Council of Health Ministers adopted a resolution on 30 November calling on the European Commission to undertake a study of public health safeguards for medicinal plant preparations in the member states, but we do not yet know how the Commission will respond to it nor what discussion will result. A copy of the resolution has been placed in the Library.

Paediatric Intensive Care Units

Baroness Masham of Ilton asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Cumberlege: Health authorities are responsible for placing contracts with hospitals to provide appropriate paediatric intensive care facilities to meet the needs of their resident populations. To assist, the Department of Health is collaborating with the Medical Research Council on research to identify the optimum size and distribution of a national network of paediatric intensive care units.

Malnutrition Screening

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Baroness Cumberlege: The Government are aware of the article and the conclusions it reaches. Local National Health Service trust managers, together with relevant medical and nursing staff, are responsible for ensuring that appropriate procedures and protocols are in place for patients entering hospital. A number of initiatives have been taken to raise awareness of the importance of nutrition among professional and other groups involved with patient care.

In October 1994, the Nutrition Task Force produced Nutrition, a Core Curriculum for Nutrition in the Education of Health Professionals. It offers guidance to those involved with the education and training of all health professionals and indicates the importance of training in the assessment of nutritional intake and status.

In August 1995, the Nutrition Task Force produced Nutrition Guidelines for Hospital Catering, which recommends that all patients should be weighed on admission to hospital, and that a nutritional risk assessment programme should be incorporated as part of the normal admission process, in liaison with nursing, medical and dietetic staff.

In November 1995, the English National Board for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting, in collaboration with the Department of Health, published a discussion document, Nutrition for Life. The document is aimed at all those involved in the education of nurses, midwives and health visitors. It builds upon the core curriculum of the Nutrition Task Force and stresses the importance of training in nutritional assessments.

Copies of the document referred to will be placed in the Library.

H2 Inhibitors and Diazimon

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are aware of any reports which would indicate that patients taking H2 inhibitors such as Tagamet may be particularly vulnerable to the effects of exposure to very low levels of diazimon, and what research is done into the synergistic and potentiating effects of human drugs with organophosphates.

Baroness Cumberlege: The Government are not aware of any reports indicating a relationship between H2 inhibitors and vulnerability to low levels of diazimon or of any research in this area.

Public Transport Seat Spacing

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether leg-room in public transport, including civil aviation, has been progressively reduced over the last 10 years; and what standards or guidelines exist to regulate this matter.

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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): The Department of Transport has no statistics showing changes to the amount of leg-room in public transport.

Minimum space requirements for passenger seats on UK registered public transport aircraft are set by the Civil Aviation Authority on safety grounds and published as Airworthiness Notice No. 64. Provided that the minimum requirements are met, seat spacing is a matter for the commercial judgment of the airline concerned. Similarly, standards for seat spacing on trains is a matter for the commercial judgment of operators.

European Aviation Safety

The Earl of Munster asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ensure that any Europe-wide agreement concerning flight safety is required by a constitutional body under the auspices of either individual European parliaments, the European Commission or Her Majesty's Government.

Viscount Goschen: European aviation safety standards are agreed by the Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA), of which the UK is an active member. The JAA is an associate body of the European Civil Aviation Conference (ECAC) and establishes common safety standards for its members by the adoption of agreed Joint Aviation Requirements (JARs). The EC has recognised that technical requirements relating to the safety of aircraft and their operation should be harmonised on the basis of these JARs. The EC therefore requires the national aviation authorities of all member states to be members of the JAA.

The Earl of Munster asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ensure that flight safety standards are not comprised by agreeing to the European Joint Aviation Authorities' proposals for airline/aircraft safety.

Viscount Goschen: The UK is represented by the Civil Aviation Authority on the Joint Aviation Authorities' (JAA) technical committees which draw up proposed aviation safety requirements. The authority will not agree to proposals which would compromise aviation safety in the UK.

The Earl of Munster asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will ensure flight crew are fully rested according to Civil Aviation Authority regulations.

Viscount Goschen: The Civil Aviation Authority will only approve aircraft operators' flight and duty time limitation schemes if they comply with their guidance on the avoidance of fatigue.

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War Widows' Pension Reinstatement Applications

Lord Craig of Radley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many applications for reinstatement of war widows pension have been received; how many, so far, have been approved and paid in full from the entitled date; and why it may take up to nine months since the changes to the pension rules before the majority of these claims will have been dealt with by the War Pensions Agency.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): These are matters for Mr. John Sheppard, the Acting Chief Executive of the War Pensions Agency. He will write to the noble Lord.

Letter to Lord Craig of Radley from the Acting Chief Executive of the War Pensions Agency, Mr. John Sheppard, dated 20/12/95:

The Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish has asked me to reply to your recent parliamentary Question about the implementation of the provisions of the Pensions Act 1995, dealing with the restoration of a war widow's pension on second widowhood.

It was estimated that there would be in the order of 16,500 awards under these provisions and I can confirm that as at 8 December, 11,321 claims have been received. Decisions have been made in 7,375 cases, of which 2,326 have been notified and 1,861 paid. The reason for the interval between decision and payment is because once entitlement has been determined, we have to make enquiries as to whether other benefits already paid need to be taken into account before payment can be made.

I can assure you that we are dealing with the claims as quickly as possible. Operational areas of the agency were already going through major reorganisation and change this year with the introduction of a new computer system and new ways of working and the reinstatement of the war widows' pension represented a further major change. Originally, it was expected that the Pensions Bill would not become law until October this year. In fact, as you know, the Bill became law in July and the agency's plans to deal with this had to be implemented three months earlier than expected.

To introduce such a major change, the agency has had to set up new procedures and supporting material, recruit and train staff and reprogramme our computer to handle the new claims. While we tried to do as much of this as possible in advance, you will appreciate that we could not anticipate the legislation. In addition, all this has had to be completed at a time when resources have been fully stretched within the organisation. Nevertheless, we have been able to put together a dedicated team of 45 people on this work.

Although initial press announcements indicated we would start dealing with claims from October, our own

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initial objective was to start making payments from October, and this we were still able to do. Our aim is to have cleared the majority of claims by the end of the financial year.

I hope you find my reply helpful.

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