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NHS: Patient Access to Healthcare

Lord Vivian asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The Government's aim is to provide access to healthcare for all patients where no one is disadvantaged. The focus will be on delivering high-quality healthcare which reflects local population needs and operates as fairly as possible. It is for individual hospital trusts to ensure that they provide an efficient and cost effective surgical service. We have issued guidance to the National Health Service requiring general practitioner fundholders to agree common waiting time standards for non-urgent patients with their health authorities with effect from April 1998. We have

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also reinforced previous guidance that hospitals should already be operating common waiting lists for urgent patients regardless of whether their commissioner is a GP fundholder or a health authority.

NHS Prescription Charges

Baroness Wilcox asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will give an assurance that, in view of their manifesto commitment, they have no intention of imposing charges for prescriptions on old age pensioners during the life of this parliament.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: We will be examining prescription charges as part of the Government's comprehensive spending review. The Government remain committed to the historic principle of the National Health Service that health services should be available to all and access be based on need not on ability to pay.

NHS Funding

Baroness Cumberlege asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the percentage real terms and cash increase for 1996-97, 1997-98 and 1998-99 in NHS funding for each health authority.

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The figures for 1996-97 and 1997-98 will be placed in the Library. An announcement will be made about 1998-99 allocations in the Autumn.

Northern Ireland Partnership Board: Strategic Aim

Lord Blease asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will give effect to the strategic aim of the recently published 1996-97 annual report of the Northern Ireland Partnership Board, "to reinforce progress towards a peaceful and stable society, and to promote reconciliation by increasing economic development and employment, promoting urban and rural regeneration, developing cross-border co-operation and extending social inclusion".

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office (Lord Dubs): The strategic aim quoted is that of the EU Special Support Programme for Peace and Reconciliation through which the Northern Ireland Partnership Board is responsible for the management of the District Partnerships Sub-programme. Further funding for the programme for the years 1998-99 is now being negotiated with the European Commission and every effort is being made by Her Majesty's Government to ensure the continuation of the programme for a further two years.

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Northern Ireland: Social Economy Contribution

Lord Blease asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the development and practical application of the concept of "social economy" would help the people of Northern Ireland to co-operate in the resolution of the political and economic problems of the Province.

Lord Dubs: The Government recognise the value of the social economy in delivering services that might not otherwise be provided and in promoting local economic and community development. The community and voluntary sector is instrumental in developing the social economy and makes a significant contribution to social, economic and political life in Northern Ireland through creating employment, increasing social cohesion, strengthening democracy and helping to build a sustainable peace. The Government acknowledge the potential contribution of the social economy to political and economic progress and is working to strengthen its relationship with the community and voluntary sector.

Northern Ireland: Guardsmen Wright and Fisher

Lord Westbury asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress there has been towards the release from prison in Northern Ireland of Guardsmen Wright and Fisher.

Lord Dubs: Following Mr. Justice Girvan's judgment of 2 July 1997, the cases of the guardsmen are being considered afresh. Concurrently Mr. Justice Girvan's judgment is being appealed and this is scheduled to be heard on 4 August 1997.

Devolution Referendums: Dates

Lord Tebbit asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in pursuit of their policy of open government and freedom of information, they will publish all correspondence, notes, minutes, memoranda and submissions concerning the consultations between advisers and others which led them to the conclusion that the devolution referendum should be held one week earlier in Scotland than in Wales.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): The Government explained in some detail why it wished to hold the referendums on separate dates during the passage of the Referendums (Scotland and Wales) Act 1997. Parliament accepted these reasons in agreeing that the separate dates for the referendums should be written into the legislation.

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Collision Warning System for Fast Jet Aircraft

Lord Glenarthur asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress is being made with development and production of a Collision Warning System for RAF fast jet aircraft.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): A Technology Demonstration Programme (TDP) was completed at DTEO Boscombe Down last year. The TDP concluded that a Collision Warning System based on aircraft Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) systems would be technically feasible in the low-level fast-jet environment. MoD is now considering the way forward. No decisions have yet been taken.

Helicopters and Military Aircraft: Collision Risks

Lord Glenarthur asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What action is being taken to minimise the risk of collision between helicopters conducting pipe and powerline surveys and low flying military aircraft; and

    Whether consideration has been given to affording protected airspace to helicopters operating under the Pipeline Inspection Notification System.

Lord Gilbert: On 18 August measures were introduced to improve the accuracy of Pipeline Inspection Notification System (PINS) information available to military aircrew. These will include the issue of a revised map which refines the areas notified on the PINS chart to depict daily activity more accurately. Given these changes, we currently see no requirement to afford protected airspace to helicopters operating under PINS. We have a wide range of measures in place, which are kept under continuous review, to minimise the risk of confliction between civil and military aircraft, including those conducting power and pipeline inspections.

Commercial Helicopter Air Proximity Reports

Lord Glenarthur asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many air proximity reports were filed by commercial helicopter operators in areas for which a CANP notification had been submitted between September 1996 and April 1997.

Lord Gilbert: None.

Lord Glenarthur asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many air proximity reports were filed by commercial helicopter operators engaged on pipe and powerline survey inspections between September 1996 and April 1997.

Lord Gilbert: Four.

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Civil Aircraft Notification: Infringements by Military Aircraft

Lord Glenarthur asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How many notifications under the Civil Aircraft Notification procedure (CANP) from commercial helicopter operators in the United Kingdom were received by the Tactical Booking Cell at RAF West Drayton in the first six months of 1997; and

    How many infringements of the CANP were reported in the first six months of 1997 and how many of these infringements were confirmed as breaches of the procedure by low flying military aircraft.

Lord Gilbert: Six hundred and sixty-three Civil Aircraft Notification Procedure (CANP) notifications were received by the MoD from commercial helicopter operators between 1 January and 30 June 1997. Twenty-five alleged infringements of CANP notification by low flying military aircraft were reported over this period, 19 of which were confirmed by RAF Police investigations. One alleged infringement was withdrawn and one was not substantiated. Four cases are still under investigation.

Lord Glenarthur asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What consideration has been given to upgrading airspace covered by Civil Aircraft Notification procedure (CANP) to "prohibited" status.

Lord Gilbert: Entry into airspace surrounding commercial activity notified under CANP is already prohibited to all fixed wing military aircraft flying at low level at speeds faster than 140 knots. We believe that existing flight safety measures adequately minimise the risk of confliction between commercial flights and other categories of military aircraft activity (specifically those flying slower than 140 knots, those operating in a Military Air Traffic Zone and all helicopters); and between military low level flights and other non-commercial civil activities notified under CANP.


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