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10 Jul 1997 : Column WA85

Written Answers

Thursday, 10th July 1997.

Peers: Desk Allocation

Lord Calverley asked the Chairman of Committees:

    Why, in view of the shortage of accommodation, desks have been allocated to new Members of this House before they have taken their seats.

The Chairman of Committees (Lord Boston of Faversham): Offices are allocated to each of the political parties and to the Cross-Bench Peers. The use of desks within such offices is a matter for the Chief Whip of the party concerned or for the Convenor, as appropriate.

Anglers' Charter

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Labour Party's anglers' charter now represents government policy, and whether they will place a copy of the charter in the Library.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: As our manifesto made clear, Labour's anglers' charter affirms our long standing commitment to angling and the objective of protecting the aquatic environment. Government Ministers are considering how best to take forward the proposals it has made. As requested, I am placing copies of the anglers' charter in the Libraries of the House.

Employment Levels

Lord Lucas asked Her Majesty's Government:

    With reference to the statement in the Labour Party manifesto that "our goals are...high and stable levels of employment", what are those levels at the most recent date for which figures are available, and how much higher is "high".

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: According to the Labour Force Survey, 26 million people are in employment in Great Britain. Employment in the UK over the last 20 years has varied considerably with the economic cycle, with employment falling by almost 1½ million in the last recession. The Department of Social Security estimates that around 6 million people of working age are currently on benefits and without work. The Government aim to increase employment on a sustainable basis through stability in monetary and fiscal policy, improving the skills of the workforce, and helping those excluded from the labour market to move from welfare to work.

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Windfall Tax: Impact

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they expect the "windfall levy" to affect the investment programmes, the profitability, the shareholders' funds, the dividend policies, the numbers of people employed by or the prices charged by the companies to which it is charged.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Chancellor of the Exchequer made clear in his Budget Statement on 2 July that, after consulting regulators, it was his judgment that the tax could be paid without any impact on prices, investment or the quality of service to consumers or, in his view, on employment.

Industrial Assurance Acts Deregulation Order

Lord Jenkin of Roding asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, and if so when, they propose to re-introduce the Industrial Assurance Acts Deregulation Order which was referred to the Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee in the last Parliament.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: The Government are discussing with the Association of British Insurers the best way to take forward the draft Industrial Assurance Acts Deregulation Order in the light of the recommendations made by the House of Lords Delegated Powers and Deregulation Committee.

UK Forest Standard

Lord Moran asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will publish further details of the new forest standard referred to by the Prime Minister in his speech at the UN General Assembly Special Session on 23 June which he said would provide a benchmark for the regeneration of our forests.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): The UK forest standard will be part of the UK's programme for applying the principles agreed at the Earth Summit in Rio. It will provide a benchmark for the sustainable management of forests and it will include guidance on how critical operations such as felling and planting should be planned and carried out. The first draft was circulated

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widely last year, and a revised draft, taking account of the comments received, will be distributed soon. We expect to publish the final version later this year.

Poverty Eradication

The Earl of Sandwich asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Which United Nations indices they take into account when assessing the needs of the poorest countries, and in what order of priority.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean): The Government's overriding objective in the field of international development is the eradication of poverty. We are committed to supporting the OECD Development Assistance Committee's targets of halving the proportion of the world's population living in absolute poverty by the year 2015 which were drawn from the conclusions of the UN Conferences such as those on Population, Social Development and Women. The DAC targets include social development goals, including universal primary education by 2015, progress towards gender equality and the empowerment of women, and improvements in health care systems and mortality rates.

Department for International Development

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are to be the responsibilities of the Department for International Development; and whether, in particular, the Overseas Development Administration (ODA) and the administration of the know how fund have been incorporated in the department.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: The Department for International Development has assumed all the responsibilities previously carried out by the Overseas Development Administration, as well as those relating to the administration of the know how fund.

Scarman Trust and Charter 88

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What instances of overlap the Charity Commission has found between the Scarman Trust (formerly the Charter 88 Trust) and Charter 88.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): The Scarman Trust currently occupies the same premises as Charter 88, which provides the charity with various administrative and financial support services. It has

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had in the past a number of trustees who have acted concurrently as directors of Charter 88. We understand that there are currently no such shared posts. Although the charity's trust deed dated 1 June 1991 provides that Charter 88 may from time to time appoint or remove one person to act as a trustee, this right has never been invoked. The charity has given grants to Charter 88, alongside other organisations, for the furtherance of specific research in line with the charity's objectives.

Scarman Trust: Charitable Status

Lord Cocks of Hartcliffe asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Scarman Trust (formerly the Charter 88 Trust) has had relationships incompatible with its charitable status with any body, and if so which.

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Charity Commission is not aware of any such relationship.

Colney Hospital Scheme

Lord Rea asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What costs would fall on (a) Norwich Health Authority; and (b) the Department of Health if the private finance initiative scheme to build a new hospital at Colney were cancelled; and what proportion of these costs would be due to (a) damages for cancelling the contract; and (b) other net costs to be specified.

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): It is impossible to estimate what costs would be incurred by the Department of Health or the Norfolk and Norwich Healthcare NHS Trust (the NHS body that has signed this contract) if the contract were to be cancelled. Any estimate of costs would have to make a series of assumptions about what would have happened if the contract had gone ahead. However, costs would probably be substantial. Under the terms of the contract, the trust would be exposed to possible claims from the private sector project company. Such claims would be consistent with any other broken commercial contract in that the project company would be in a position to claim for costs and the loss of their profits over the entire period of the contract. In addition, the trust might well incur extra running costs in opting for a different solution, and the wasted time and expense incurred to date in developing this scheme would be considerable.

All these costs would be wasted money that would have done nothing to improve the delivery of healthcare to local people. Most importantly it would mean that local people would have lost the chance to have a new hospital.

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Prostate Cancer: Screening

Lord Mason of Barnsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What have been the results of the breast cancer screening and testing service, and what are the prospects of a screening and testing service for prostate cancer and prostate related diseases.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The results of the National Health Service Breast Screening Programme are contained in The National Health Service Breast Screening Programme Review 1996 (UK results) and the Department of Health Statistical Bulletin 1997/3 Breast Screening Programme, England: 1995-96. Copies of both these documents are in the Library.

New review evidence on screening for prostate cancer was published earlier this year. The research (commissioned through the NHS Research and Development Programme) rigorously evaluated screening for prostate cancer to assess whether it does more harm than good. The National Screening Committee (NSC) scrutinised and considered most carefully the evidence on the accuracy of current technologies to screen for prostate cancer and how good they are at finding out who has the disease and who has not, whether or not there is effective treatment for those affected by the disease and the psychological and physical harm that could result from population screening. Patient and ethical issues were also considered.

The NSC concluded that: "there is not yet a case for population screening as there is no evidence of benefit but definite evidence of psychological and physical harm resulting from population screening. The committee advise that a population screening programme should not be provided by the NHS."

Department of Health Ministers have accepted the recommendations of the NSC, and an Executive Letter (EL(97)12) was issued to the National Health Service on 23 June. A copy is in the Library.

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