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Advance Refusal of Fluids: Guidance

Lord Ashbourne asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Jay of Paddington: An advance refusal of artificial hydration made by a person who has suffered a stroke will only be applicable if the person is no longer able to decide whether to accept or refuse such treatment, and the circumstances match those envisaged by the advance refusal. In these circumstances, appropriate medical care would be provided to ensure that the dignity of the patient was maintained and any suffering or distress was minimised.

A range of guidance is available for people contemplating making an advance refusal of treatment. At present we have no plans to issue additional guidance. In December 1997 we issued a Green Paper Who Decides? which asks a number of questions on decision making for those who have lost capacity including whether advance refusals of treatment should be put on a statutory basis. The consultation closes in March 1998.

Vitamin B6 Safety: COT Reviews

Earl Baldwin of Bewdley asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) has considered the safety of vitamin B6 on two separate occasions and we are confident that it has reviewed all the relevant papers on toxicity of vitamin B6 as well as unpublished papers supplied by interested parties.

The Government have every confidence in the rigour with which the COT reviewed the data and we have no plans to ask the COT to consider the issue for a third time.

Asylum Seekers: Stopping of Benefit Payments

Earl Russell asked Her Majesty's Government:

22 Jan 1998 : Column WA262

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Social Security (Baroness Hollis of Heigham): The administration of Social Security Benefits is a matter for Peter Mathison, the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency. I have asked him to write to you.

Letter to Earl Russell from the Chief Executive of the Benefits Agency, Mr. Peter Mathison, dated 21 January 1998.

I have been asked to reply to your recent parliamentary Question asking if we will ensure that, where asylum seekers are refused asylum, the stopping of benefit payments does not predate the refusal of asylum.

As soon as the Benefits Agency (BA) is notified of the Home Office's decision on an asylum application an adjudication officer reviews the customer's entitlement to income support, from the date the Home Office's decision is recorded. The customer is notified of the results of the review.

If, following contact from the customer, it appears that notification of the decision to refuse asylum has reached the BA and benefit has been stopped, before the decision has been served on the asylum applicant, BA staff will advise the person to contact the Home Office urgently.

The Home Office are responsible for notifying the asylum seeker of the Home Secretary's decision on their asylum application.

I hope you find this reply helpful.

Parliamentary Constituencies: Numbers of Electors

Lord Roberts of Conwy asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What are the latest available figures for the average size, in terms of numbers of electors, of parliamentary constituencies in--
    (a) Wales;
    (b) Scotland; and
    (c) England.[HL128]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Williams of Mostyn): Based on the 1997 register and the current distribution of constituencies, the average size, in terms of electors, of parliamentary constituencies is as follows:
(a) Wales 55,563
(b) Scotland 55,339
(c) England 69,578

Colchester Young Offenders Institution

Lord Murray of Epping Forest asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they intend to continue the operation of the experimental regime at Colchester Young Offenders Institution.[HL276]

22 Jan 1998 : Column WA263

Lord Williams of Mostyn: The Government are determined to pursue an active regime in young offender institutions (YOIs) as part of their commitment to focus the youth justice system on the prevention of offending by young people. Statutory provision for this is contained in the Crime and Disorder Bill.

We are therefore continuing the experimental "high intensity training" regime which the previous Administration established at Thorn Cross YOI. Although at £22,700 per place, this regime is more expensive than the cost of a typical YOI regime at £17,300 per place, the Thorn Cross programme has been shown to have a more sharply focused and better integrated set of activities. We believe therefore that Thorn Cross represents value for money.

However, we have been unable to reach the same conclusion with Colchester. Colchester YOI opened on 20 February 1997 initially for one year. The costs per place at Colchester, at £31,300, have been running at nearly twice those for a typical YOI and nearly £9,000 more than those at Thorn Cross. The Colchester regime has encouraged positive change in attitudes among young offenders but the available evaluation has not supported the contention that it has been more effective in preventing re-offending than other initiatives.

In view of this, and of the very high costs, we have concluded that Colchester YOI does not represent value for money. It will therefore close on 31 March 1998.

This decision in no way reflects on the hard work and commitment of the staff who have been involved with the experiment and to whom we pay tribute. Their work will assist us in improving regimes at other YOIs. We shall be using for this purpose the resources which we have saved from the closure of Colchester.

Armed Forces' Married Quarters

The Earl of Carlisle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    How much of the £100 million earmarked for the refurbishment of the Armed Forces' married quarters has so far been spent, and by when the remainder will be expended.[HL12]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Gilbert): £28 million will have been spent by the end of the financial year 97-98. The expenditure of the balance has been programmed as follows:

£ million


Armed Forces: Ethnic Composition

Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What targets the Ministry of Defence sets in respect of the recruitment of ethnic minority personnel into the Armed Forces.[HL275]

22 Jan 1998 : Column WA264

Lord Gilbert: We have made clear on a number of occasions our determination that the Armed Forces should better reflect the ethnic composition of our society. As part of this commitment, I am pleased to announce that, for the year starting in April 1998, the goal for each Service will be that 2 per cent. of new recruits should be from the ethnic minorities, with that figure rising annually by 1 per cent. so that it reaches 5 per cent. by the end of the financial year 2000-02 and, in time, reflects the proportion of people from ethnic minority communities in the wider population.

These recruiting goals represent a major challenge for all in the Services, especially recruiting personnel, and will be reflected in the Ministry of Defence departmental plan. I am confident that they are realistic and provide a strong indication of our wish to make real, tangible progress in this area.

Armed Forces: Married Quarters

The Earl of Carlisle asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What were the findings of the survey of married Armed Forces personnel concerning their satisfaction or otherwise with their married quarters; and what steps the Ministry of Defence is taking to address the situation.[HL13]

Lord Gilbert: The Defence Housing Executive commission's detailed independent surveys covering the full range of its housing management responsibilities. The first such survey was undertaken in 1995 during the transitional period leading to the assumption of full management responsibility for housing by DHE from the Services and showed that overall 55 per cent. of respondents were satisfied with the general condition of their accommodation compared with 25 per cent. who were dissatisfied. The MoD embarked on a major upgrade programme for its housing stock and is planned to spend a total of £470 million by 2004.

The second survey was undertaken in late 1997 so that trends in satisfaction levels could be measured. The results are currently being compiled by the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency and will be available in the spring when I will write to the noble Lord and place a copy of my letter in the Library of the House.

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