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15 Apr 1996 : Column WA51

Written Answers

Monday, 15th April 1996.

Questions for Written Answers

The Earl of Northesk asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the average cost of answering a Question for Written Answer in the House of Lords; which three Lords have asked the most Questions for Written Answer in the current session to date; and how many such Questions each of them has asked.

The Minister of State, Department of Social Security (Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish): The most recent Government-wide average cost of answering parliamentary Questions for Written Answer was assessed at £105. This is the figure for April 1995, and relates to Questions in both Houses. Information is not separately available for the House of Lords.

From the beginning of the Session until 22nd March, the following Lords have received the following number of Written Answers:

    Lord Kennet 117

    Lord Lester of Herne Hill 71

    Earl Russell 59

In each case the number of Questions asked is likely to be somewhat higher, since on occasion a single Answer is given to two or more Questions.

Child Support Agency: Redress for Maladministration

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    In the light of paragraph 15 of the third report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration (Investigation of Complaints against the Child Support Agency), when they expect to issue the revised Treasury guidance on redress for maladministration to which they referred in their response to the report of the Select Committee on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: The Treasury guidance was issued on 28th March. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of the House and sent to the House of Commons Select Committee on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration.

Private Finance Initiative

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will quantify the cost to public funds over five years of each £1,000 spent under the Private Finance Initiative.

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Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Unlike conventional capital procurement, payments under the Private Finance Initiative by the public sector represent charges for services delivered to agreed standards. Private Finance Initiative (PFI) is a decentralised initiative and expenditure to purchase services procured under PFI is the responsibility of individual departments.

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Private Finance Initiative is intended to be suitable for the financing of expenditure on items which do not generate income.

Lord Mackay of Ardbrecknish: Deals under the Private Finance Initiative rely on a stream of income to remunerate the private sector partner provided he delivers a stream of services to pre-determined standards.

In the majority of cases the income is derived from the charges made to the government department or other public sector body contracting for the service. The core service remains free to the end user in such cases. In some instances, the cost to the public sector can be alleviated by exploiting the commercial potential for charging other users, where this accords with government policy.


The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the biocide contained in the product Rainstay.

Lord Lucas: The biocide is a combination of 3 per cent. Formaldehyde and 2.5 per cent. of a mixture of Chloromethylisothasalone and Methylisothasalone.

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What chemical reaction they would expect from a combination of glyphosate weed killer, Rainstay and snowcal left in a cast iron or galvanised steel tank for a period of several weeks.

Lord Lucas: Glyphosate is an approved herbicide. Glyphosate products generally carry manufacturers' advice not to mix, store or apply them in galvanised or unlined mild steel containers or spray tanks. I understand that this is due to the possibility of corrosion occurring in such containers or tanks.

Without knowing the precise details of a mixture of glyphosate, Rainstay and snowcal (e.g., concentration, temperature etc.), I am unable to advise on any chemical reaction that might be expected.

Any incident where the use of a pesticide may have affected the health of the user or someone nearby should be reported to the Health and Safety Executive. I am

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placing in the Library of the House a leaflet which gives further advice on the reporting of incidents involving the use of pesticides and veterinary medicines.

Youth Treatment Places for Juveniles

Lord Harris of Greenwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many additional secure places for juveniles in youth treatment centres and local authority secure units will be provided by the end of 1996 and 1997 respectively, and how many of these are intended for juveniles on remand.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege): The Secure Accommodation Development Programme will be producing 170 additional local authority places, some 160 of which are intended for children on remand. The first additional places became available in December of last year. Further new places will come on stream throughout 1996 leading to around 100 additional places being completed by the end of this year and the balance by mid 1997. In addition, 10 new secure places will come into use within the Glenthorne Youth Treatment Centre in 1996.

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Electro-shock Therapy

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to their Written Answer of 8th March concerning trials to test the efficacy of electric shock treatment (ECT) in the treatment of depression (col. WA 40), and in the light of an independent survey carried out by the UK Advocacy Network on 308 recipients of ECT, which found that 35.1 per cent. of the respondents considered it to have been "damaging", whether they will commission an independent study of this treatment by non-psychiatric medical doctors.

Baroness Cumberlege: We do not consider it necessary to commission an independent study into the use of ECT.

Lord McNair asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to their Written Answer of 8th March which stated that there is "no evidence that ECT is disproportionately risky in older people" (col. WA 40), whether they consider that electro-shock treatment (ECT) is under-reported as a cause of death, and whether they will, as a matter of urgency, find out how many people are dying following ECT.

Baroness Cumberlege: Unexpected deaths of patients in psychiatric hospitals will normally be subject to critical incident enquiries. Certification of death by the certifying doctor will depend on enquiries through the local coroner, who will order an inquest if this is judged to be necessary.

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