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Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

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Lord Gilbert: "Global Engagement 97" was a classified United States Air Force war game. Questions about its content are a matter for the United States Government.

Organophosphorus Compound Exposure: Research

The Countess of Mar asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What mechanistic research into the effects of exposure of humans to organophosphates (OPs) is being conducted at DERA, Porton Down; whether any of this research involves the many enzymes now associated with OP effects; and when the research is expected to be completed and the results published.[HL229]

Lord Gilbert: The Chemical and Biological Defence Sector of DERA at Porton Down is not currently conducting any mechanistic research into the effects of exposure of humans to organophosphorus compounds.

Some research into the mechanisms by which organophosphorus compounds affect living organisms is being conducted in animals, to look at the development of possible new medical countermeasures against nerve agent poisoning.

Studies have been undertaken in the past to investigate the interaction between organophosphorus compounds and the enzymes acetycholinesterase, cholinesterase, carboxyesterase and neuropathy target esterase (NTE) in animal species and with some enzymes derived from human sources, e.g. blood samples. Most of these studies have been reported in the open literature and I have arranged for a list of them to be placed in the Library of the House.

Housing Fitness Standard: Review

Lord Williams of Elvel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What progress is being made in reviewing the housing fitness standard.[HL573]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Baroness Hayman): We have today issued a consultation paper on the housing fitness standard to seek the views of the local government associations and other relevant bodies on a range of proposals and options for change. The proposals have been drawn up taking into account responses received to an earlier initiating discussion paper; the results of research undertaken by Warwick University and the Building Research Establishment; and discussions with practitioner bodies and housing professionals.

It should be the aim of any housing fitness standard to provide a means of identifying, and thereby enabling action to be targeted on, those sections of the housing stock where the health and safety risks are the greatest. The main proposal, outlined in more detail in the

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consultation paper, is for a fitness rating approach to be developed and tested as a successor to the current standard. This would give an overall rating to a property based on an assessment of a range of housing characteristics, rather than the current pass/fail on one or more requirements. A fitness rating approach would surpass the existing standard by encompassing all the important health and safety risks in the home but also by distinguishing the varying severity of those risks.

As a result it would have the potential for providing a more effective mechanism for the evaluation of the housing stock, both nationally and locally, and for the targeting of resources as well as for determining where intervention and public resources are needed most.

I have arranged for copies of the consultation paper and the research to be placed in the Library of each House.

Emergency Towing Vessels

Lord Williams of Elvel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What intentions they have for the future provision of emergency towing vessels around the United Kingdom; and when they will publish the trials report and the cost benefit analysis report on emergency towing vessels.[HL574]

Baroness Hayman: The Government will continue to station, for winter periods only, three emergency towing vessels around the UK. Emergency towing vessels are stationed in the Dover Strait, the Minches and the South Western Approaches. Officials are arranging new contracts to cover the next few winters. These contracts will commence in October 1998.

The report of the three-year trial (1994 to 1997) and the report of the cost benefit analysis on emergency towing vessels are both released today. Copies have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

Scottish Farming: Support Costs

Lord Burton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the total cost of government aid to Scottish farming.[HL391]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Sewel): In 1997, direct payments to Scottish agriculture were worth around £490 million. Additional benefits accrue to the industry via other programmes. For example, in 1997-98, around £65 million will be spent on research, development, education and advisory services in Scotland. Farmers also benefit from market support measures which aim to keep EU prices above world market prices. The cost of such support measures for the UK as a whole in 1997-98 is estimated at around £540 million.

Lord Burton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What is the cost of aid to crofting taken from the Scottish agricultural budget.[HL392]

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Lord Sewel: Agricultural support which is available only to crofters totalled £8.5 million in 1996-97. Other support measures, such as livestock subsidies and agri-environment and structural payments, are available to both crofters and farmers. However, separate figures for payments to crofters under these schemes are not available.

Scottish Farming: Restructuring

Lord Burton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans they are proposing to restructure the Scottish farming industry, and whether they plan to do so in advance of any change which may be imposed on other member states of the European Union.[HL349]

Lord Sewel: As was made clear in their statement on 22 December, the Government intend to consult the industry on the restructuring required to improve its economic sustainability. I have met the National Farmers' Union of Scotland on three occasions already to discuss these matters, both in the short term and in the context of the forthcoming changes to the CAP which will be set in train by the Agenda 2000 process.

Hospital Bed Day Comparisons

Lord Rea asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Further to the Written Answer by the Baroness Jay of 27 January (WA 25-28), concerning costs to the NHS arising from
    (a) road accidents;
    (b) accidents in the home;
    (c) smoking related illness;
    (d) alcohol related illness;
    (e) drug related illness;
    (f) AIDS;
    (g) food poisoning;
    (h) CJD; and
    (i) mental illness,

    what are the bed days and costs for the groups of conditions described as a proportion of total bed days or costs for all conditions for the periods concerned.[HL382]

The Minister of State, Department of Health (Baroness Jay of Paddington): The reply of 27 January (WA 25-28) presented information on the number of bed days in hospital for some illnesses and injuries. These were from different sources, which means that they were not all comparable. The estimates of the number of bed days in hospital from the previous reply that were comparable were obtained from the hospital episode statistics (HES) database. These are given (rounded to the nearest 1,000) in the table, together with the total number of bed days in hospital in England in 1994-95.

The number of bed days in hospital for the conditions are very low when expressed as a proportion of the total number of bed days: the conditions each contributed to less than 1 per cent. of the total number of bed days in

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hospital in 1994-95, except alcohol related illness, which contributed to 1.5 per cent. of the total bed days.

Illness/injuryNumber of bed days in hospital
Road accidents300,000
Alcohol related illness1,022,000
Drug related illness190,000
Food poisoning190,000
All injuries and illnesses69,167,000

Although estimates are available for the costs to the National Health Service for certain illness and injuries (and available estimates were given in the previous reply), the department does not record the cost to the NHS of specific illnesses or injuries. The estimated costs given in the previous reply are not directly comparable as they were calculated on different bases: for example, for treatment of AIDS the amount allocated to health authorities was given, whereas for treating diseases caused by smoking an estimated cost was given. In addition they are not directly comparable

with total NHS spending. The total cost of the NHS

in 1995-96 was almost £33.5 billion (gross) or £32.0 billion (net).

LIFE: Grant Aid

Lord Braine of Wheatley asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will consider directly allocating to the organisation LIFE a modest grant to enable it to expand its care service and housing programme for homeless pregnant women.[HL300]

Baroness Jay of Paddington: The Government currently pay a grant of £15,569 to LIFE (Northern Ireland) towards its central administrative costs under Article 71(2) of the Health and Personal Social Services (NI) Order 1972. We have not been approached by LIFE to extend grant aid payable to LIFE (NI). The closing date for applications for 1998-99 was 30 November 1997. Application forms for 1999-2000 will be available in September 1998.

The main way in which the Department of Health provides grants to voluntary organisations is through Section 64 of the Health Services and Public Health Act 1968. This annual grants scheme is always oversubscribed and the department receives many more good applications than it can meet. The Department of Health did not receive an application for the 1998-99 round of Section 64 funding from the national LIFE organisation. Application forms for 1999-2000 will be distributed in July this year. I will ensure that one is sent to LIFE.

Health and local authorities have powers similar to the Department of Health, and they are in the best position to determine the allocation of funds at their disposal in relation to local priorities and competing demand. LIFE may wish to consider applying for funding there.

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The Government provide funding to the Housing Corporation for the provision of new housing to meet priority housing needs. The priority needs are those identified by local authorities in their housing strategies. In addition, local authorities also provide support for new schemes. LIFE may, therefore, wish to develop, or build on, its links with local authorities to help ensure that the needs of homeless pregnant women and unsupported mothers are taken into account alongside other priority needs for housing.

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